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  • Titles of full works like books or newspapers should be italicized, or underlined if italics are not an option.
    Titles of short works like poems, articles, short stories, or chapters should be put in quotation marks.
    Titles of books that form a larger body of work may be put in quotation marks if the name of the book series is italicized.

There was a time, as some of us remember, when we didn’t have extensive formatting options for typed documents. Back then, you made words stand out by underlining them. That method is still used today if no other options are available. When there are other options, you can use underlining, italics, bold text, and quotation marks to emphasize some words. The words that often get emphasized are things like names of ships or planes, words used as themselves, foreign words, and titles of books and other titled works.

How to Emphasize Book Titles

The way you format titles isn’t really governed by grammar rules. It’s a matter of style. If you want to, you can emphasize whatever you want, however you want—but that could make your writing next to unreadable. Consistency is very important for emphasis, which is why businesses, institutions, and publications look to style guides for rules that will ensure the needed consistency.

Book titles are usually put in the same category as other big, standalone, or complete bodies of work, like newspapers, symphonies, or publications. Style guides that prescribe the use of italics, such as The Chicago Manual of Style or the AMA Manual of Style, say that titles of such works should be put into italics when appearing in text. Some writers still use underlining if italicizing is not an option, but generally it’s considered to be an outdated style. You should also note that these guidelines apply to titles that appear in a text and are surrounded by other words. You don’t have to italicize the title of your thesis, for example, when it appears on the cover.

How to Emphasize Titles of Smaller Pieces of Work

But let’s say you want to write the title of an article or book chapter. Should you also italicize it? For shorter pieces of work, or works that don’t stand alone but are part of a greater whole, you should use quotation marks.

You might also find sources that say that you can use either italics or quotation marks for these shorter pieces of work, but that will land you into trouble when you write the titles of both a long and a short work in a sentence. In that case, you would have to use italics for the title of the long work and quotation marks for the title of the short work. But if you already mentioned the title of the short work in another sentence and used italics to emphasize it, you’ll have to go back and change it to quotation marks for consistency.

A Quick Tip about Emphasis of Titles

The determiner the, as well as punctuation marks, should be italicized only if they are a part of the title. So, you can write that you love the musical Oklahoma! and that you’ve read The Sun Also Rises. But, if the is the first word of a title but writing it would disrupt the flow of the sentence, you can skip it. For example, you can say “a New Yorker article” instead of “a The New Yorker article.” As for including punctuation marks within quotation marks, you should write them as they’re written in your variant of the English language—within the quotation marks if you’re from the US, after them if you’re from the UK.

Up for some exercise? See if you can emphasize the titles in the following sentences!

I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe over the summer.
Have you read Humble Origins to Classic Footwear, Espadrilles Endure on the Newsweek website?
Is Paradise Lost a poem?
The final part of Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, was my favorite.
You only get so much information about Harry from reading A Boy Who Lived.
A Boy Who Lived is the first chapter of the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

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