Skip to content

Do You Italicize Book Titles? Essay Secrets Revealed


When you’re writing a scholarly article or writing in a professional setting, you want to make sure that your grammar and style is meeting the required expectations. There may be a chance you’re writing about a book you’ve read or citing sources in a research paper. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering things like, “Do you italicize book titles or underline them?” or “How do I cite shorter pieces of work properly?” then keep on reading!

We are going to give you all the details on when it’s correct to use italics, along with how to emphasize other types of reference material.

Aisle of books on bookshelves
Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Do You Italicize Book Titles?

The general rule of thumb is to use italics for long works and quotations for short work.

But depending on the format you’re meant to adhere by, the rules may vary. For example, you may be instructed to write according to the APA style, MLA, or Chicago Manual of Style. You should follow the rules dictated by the guidelines.

Writing Formats

  • Modern Language Association (MLA): Used in arts and humanities
  • American Psychological Association (APA): Used in social sciences
  • Associated Press Stylebook (AP): Used for magazines, newspapers, and internet
  • Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago): Used from publishing to science, one of the most popular styles

For MLA, APA, and Chicago Manual of Style, you should use italics for long works and quotations for short works.

For AP style, however, you never use italics for pieces of work — no matter the length. Additionally, the APA style neither uses quotation marks or italics for shorter works. Instead, it expects them to be written as normal text.

Sometimes, the choice of style may be up to you as a writer. If that’s the case, then it’s best to stay consistent throughout your work with your usage of italics, underlines and quotation marks.

Short Works: How to Emphasize Titles of Shorter Pieces of Work

When you are making reference to a title of an article or a chapter in a book, you shouldn’t put it in italics. Instead, you can use quotation marks to emphasize these smaller pieces of work. This is the same rule for titles of episodes of shows.

Do You Italicize Punctuation in Titles?

When a piece of work includes punctuation, like a question mark for example, that part of the title should be italicized, too. For example, you’d write, “I love the book Oh the Places, You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss.”

However, when you are writing and using italics in a sentence for emphasis or within a parenthetical, then you do not italicize the punctuation.

Exceptions For Emphasizing Titles

Like with most aspects of English, there are some exceptions to the rule. One exception is when you have a book that is a collection of various novel titles, like Lord of the Rings. In this case, you’d put the title of the specific books in quotation marks, but you’d keep the title of the collection in italics.

Additionally, when the word “the” is part of a title, you do not italicize it. For example, it’s correct to write the New York Times.

How To Capitalize Properly

Titles have special formatting and capitalization rules. For example, you only capitalize the first word and all main words in a title.

You do not capitalize articles, such as “a,” “an” or “the.” For example, you’d write: War and Peace instead of War And Peace.

When to Use Quotations Instead

There are very specific cases for when you should elect to use quotation marks for the titles of works as opposed to italics. Use quotations for:

  • Poems
  • Articles in journals or magazines
  • Songs
  • Short stories
  • Book chapters
  • Television episodes

Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

Examples of Correct Usage of Italics

Here’s a list of examples to help for reference sake:

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (movie title, notice that articles are lower case)
  • The Cat in the Hat (book title)
  • “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (song title)
  • “How Pandemics End” (article title)
  • The New York Times (newspaper title)
  • “The Tell-Tale Heart” (a short story)

Final Thoughts

Knowing when to italicize or use quotation marks is not a one-size-fits-all answer. It may depend on the writing format you’ve been instructed to write in.

However, a general rule of thumb to follow is that longer pieces of work, like books, require italics, whereas shorter pieces of work, like poems or articles, will be written with quotation marks.