Italics or quotation marks for titles?

I’ve been asked for a post on the correct way to write titles for books, magazines, etc. Here’s the short version of the rule: Italics are for long works, and double quotation marks are for short works.

Italicize the title of a book, but write the title of a short story or novella, or chapter of a book, inside quotation marks. (A children’s picture book, although not long, is still a book and is treated as such: Fox in Socks, not “Fox in Socks.”)

Roger Zelazny’s novella “…And Call Me Conrad” was later expanded into the novel This Immortal. (Fun fact: it tied with Dune for the Hugo award.)

I first read The Hobbit when I was eight years old, and I skipped the chapter called “Riddles in the Dark” because I was very afraid of Gollum after having seen the animated movie a couple of years earlier.

Italicize the title of a movie or television series, but use quotation marks for the title of a single television episode.

I think the two-part episode “Moebius” from Stargate: SG-1 is a fine example of how to end a television series.

Italicize the names of magazines but use quotation marks for titles of articles in them.

November’s issue of National Geographic contained an article called “The Race to the Red Planet.”

Italicize titles of albums but write song titles inside quotation marks.

I like every song on Billy Joel’s album Storm Front, but one of my favorites is “State of Grace” because it reminds me of the summer I was in Toronto.

Italicize titles of epic poems, but use quotation marks for most.

Some people would say I’m uneducated or lacking taste because I enjoy Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” a lot more than I enjoy Homer’s The Iliad.

Italics are also used for names of ships (including starships!), but to the best of my knowledge, we don’t use quotation marks for the names of rowboats. 🙂


For more information on italics versus quotation marks: Grammar Girl and YourDictionary.

Grammar Girl mentions that italics are not used for the name of the Christian Bible. She doesn’t mention why (and may not know), so I’m gonna tell you… The Bible isn’t a book, technically. It’s an omnibus, a collection of books into a single volume. You don’t italicize Bible, but you do italicize Deuteronomy and Thessalonians, for example. This follows the same rule used for novel series: italicize the titles of individual books but not the name of the series as a whole.



About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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6 Responses to Italics or quotation marks for titles?

  1. This is awesome. How do you deal with italicised names in a block of italic text, as an addition to this?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve D says:

    Great guide.

    Did you really not read “Riddles in the Dark”? That may be one of my favorite chapters in any book I’ve ever read 😛 Although Gollum definitely creeped me out.

    Liked by 1 person

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