Are Titles of Books Italicized? Or Do You Use Quotations or Underline?

Do you struggle with when to italicize versus underline? Are titles of books italicized? What about the episodes of a television show? What are the guidelines for this? Grammar rules can be complicated. Read this guide to learn how to correctly format your titles for all future writing projects.

Quotations vs Italics In Titles Comparison Table

In a hurry finding out the answer to “are titles of books italicized?,” italicized? You can refer to the comparison table below. We broke it down to different writing style guides, and included some exceptions as well.

Ai Italics2

When to Use Italics in Titles?

You should use italics in titles when writing in APA, CMOS, and MLA. If you are writing in AP style, it is predominantly quotation marks; it does not use italics at all. Here is a closer look at the italicization rule in titles.

Titles of Books / Book Titles

Are titles of books italicized? APA, CMOS, and MLA all italicize book titles, while AP is the lone wolf, sticking with its quotation marks. If punctuation is part of the title, such as a question mark at the end of the sentence, you include the punctation in the italicized words. This rule also applies to apostrophe, exclamation marks, and dashes.


Like book titles, you will also need to italicize journal in titles. And, again, AP style do not use italics in journals.

Newspaper and Magazine Titles

Most style guides dictate italicization of newspaper and magazine titles. In AP style, you will neither use quotation marks or italics when referencing newspapers and magazines.

Television Series Titles

APA, CMOS, and MLA style guides also use italicization for television series titles. On the other hand, AP dictates using quotation marks. Keep in mind that you’ll also use quotation marks when referencing a specific episode of the show whether in APA, CMOS, and MLA writing.

Long Poem Titles

When it comes to titles of long poems, you should also treat them like books. So, always italicized long poem titles. Yet again, AP is the only exception to this rule; you will put long poem titles in quotation marks.

Painting Names

Names of paintings, sculptures, and other works of art will be italicized. One interesting thing to note is that for CMOS, titles of paintings and sculptures are italicized, while photographs are instead written in quotation marks. And, again, AP uses quotation marks.

Italicization of Different Style Guides

As our table shows, style guides have different italicization and quotation rules. Out of the different style guides, AP is the easiest to remember – it consistently only use quotation marks across title types.

Here is a closer look at each style guide.

Associated Press (AP)

You will find AP style commonly used in news writing. As mentioned earlier, AP stylebook predominantly use quotation marks.

Modern Language Association (MLA)

You will use Modern Language Association or MLA style for language arts, cultural studies, and scholarly works. MLA calls for italicization of book titles, journals, magazine titles, television show titles, movie titles, and long poem titles. The only time you will use quotation marks is if you are referencing a specific portion of the material.

For instance, you should italicize Taylor Swift’s album Red, while the specific song title within the album, like All Too Well, should be in quotation marks.

MLA’s quotation mark in title also applies to short stories.

American Psychological Association (APA)

For communications, social sciences, business, and nursing, you will use American Psychological Association or APA style. APA italicization and quotation rules are also similar to MLA.

What if there’s a colon in the title? Will you need to capitalize the first letter of the subtitle? APA’s publication manual also recommends that you capitalize it as well.

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)

CMOS is often used for book publishing and scholarly works. Like APA and MLA, you will need to italicize longer works (book titles, journals, and albums) and quotation marks for shorter works (speech titles, book chapters, and article titles) if you are using CMOS.

When to Use Quotations in Titles?

Now that we’ve uncovered when to use italics, it’s pretty clear now that only AP style consistently use quotation mars. If you are using other style guides, keep in mind that shorter form of the original longer material dictates use of quotation marks.

Insider Tip: Single quotation marks are typically only used when you are quoting within a title. On the other hand, you should use double quotation marks when referencing shorter works.

Article Title

If you are referencing an article within a journal or newspaper, you will need to put the article title in quotation marks. This rules applies to MLA, AP, and CMOS. What about APA? APA calls for neither – you will need to capitalize the first word of the title.

Chapter of a Book

Sometimes you need to reference only a chapter in a book, so you need to follow the style guides. For instance, “The Boy Who Lived” is the first chapter in the Harry Potter series.  

Short Story

Short stories may be similar to books, but that doesn’t mean the style guide thinks so. Whether you are using MLA, AP, APA, and MLA, all titles of short stories also calls for using quotation marks.

Episode Title of a Series

Sometimes you need to reference a particular episode rather than the whole show. In that case, you will need to use quotation marks.

Song Titles

Much like episodes, specific song titles should also be used with quotation marks – unless you are referencing longer musical works.

Scene Names

Title of plays are italicized but when you are referencing a specific scene or act, you will need to put it in quotation marks. For instance, you should italicize the Hamlet, while Act 3 Part I should be in quotation marks.

Speech Titles

Much like articles from journals and magazines, speeches can add a lot to evidence and support to your writing. If you are referencing speeches, aim for quotation marks whether you are using APA, AP, MLA, or CMOS.

Consistency Is the Key

Are titles of books italicized? In general, you should italicize it. But if you are referring to shorter works like a short story or a specific song in a musical album, you should use quotation marks. This rule also applies if you are writing AP style (except for the Bible, almanacs, and dictionaries). 

Whenever you are in a state of confusion of whether you should italicize or use quotation marks, refer to the comparison table and examples. Happy Writing!  

This post was proofread by Grammarly. Try it - it's FREE!

Capitalize My Title is a dynamic title capitalization tool used to make sure your titles or headlines use proper capitalization rules according to various style guides include APA, AP, MLA, and Chicago. It also counts your words and checks for grammar issues.


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