Punctuating Titles

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How to Punctuate Titles

Three Methods:

Punctuating titles can be tricky, especially because different types of titles require different notations and typography. Depending on the type of title, you may need to capitalize the title, underline the title, or use quotation marks around the title to ensure it is punctuated properly. You may also be creating a title for an original work written by you, citing it in a text, or a published work written by someone else, citing it as a reference in your bibliography. Depending on the expectations of your professor or teacher, you may also be required to use the more common MLA style or the less common APA style.


Punctuating the Title of a Shorter Work

  1. Use quotation marks for the title of a poem, short story, or essay.In MLA style, you always use quotation marks to notate the title of a poem if you are citing it as a reference in a bibliography or if you are citing your own original work. For example, “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe or “Today is a Good Day” by Mark Smith.
    • You also use quotation marks for the titles of short stories. For example, “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver or “Coyotes” by Jo Ann Beard.
    • This rule also applies to the title of an essay. For example, “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell.
  2. Apply quotation marks to the title of a book chapter or an article.If you are citing the title of a book chapter or an article from a journal, magazine, newspaper, or periodical, you will use quotation marks. This applies to original works and published works.
    • For example, if you are citing a chapter title inMoby Dick, you would cite it as “The Carpet-Bag” chapter inMoby Dick.
    • If you are citing an article title in a travel journal, it would appear as “Rivers of China” or “Top Hikes in Oregon”. A newspaper article title would appear as “Woman Missing on Hiking Trail”.
  3. Use quotation marks to title of a song, a television episode, or a commercial.If you are trying to format the title of a song, a television episode, or a television commercial, you should use quotation marks. For example, “I Did It My Way”, “Obey Your Thirst”, or “The One Where the Monkey Gets Away”.
    • You should also use quotations for the title of a skit or a monologue. For example, “The Bar Skit”.
  4. Add quotation marks to the title of a blog entry and any unpublished works.If you are trying to format a blog entry title, add quotation marks. For example, “Meet My New Cat” or “Today’s the Day”.
    • If you have any unpublished works that you are titling, such as manuscripts, speeches, lectures, dissertations, or theses, you should use quotation marks. For example, “My Speech on Human Rights” or “A Lecture on Bees”.
  5. Apply quotations to in-text titles for APA style.APA style is different from MLA style in that it has different rules for titles that are in text and titles that are listed in references or in a bibliography. In text, you should use quotation marks around titles of shorter works, such as articles, chapters, or essays. For example, “Breaking the Psyche in Adolescents”.
    • In your references or bibliography, you would use plain text for the titles of shorter works, with no quotation marks. For example, Breaking the Psyche in Adolescents.

Punctuating the Title of a Longer Work

  1. Use italics for the title of a novel, a book length poem, and a story collection.All novels are notated with italics, such asThe Old Man and the SeaorMrs. Dalloway. Book length poems or epic poems are also notated with italics, such asBeowulforThe Odyssey. You should make sure these titles all have quotation marks, regardless of if you are citing original work in text or published works in a bibliography.
    • Story collections and poetry collections are also notated with italics. For example,The Collected Stories of Grace PaleyorThe Collected Poetry of Dorothy Parker.
    • An anthology of essays is also italicized. For example,The Best American Essays.
  2. Apply italics to the title of a magazine, a newspaper, or an encyclopedia.If you are citing a magazine or a newspaper, you would italicize the title. Italicize For example,Vanity FairorThe Globe and Mail. Do this for both original works in text and published works in a bibliography.
    • The titles of encyclopedias are also italicized. For example,Encyclopedia BritannicaorThe Encyclopedia of Botanicals.
  3. Add italics to the title of an album, a play, a film, or a television series.If you are citing the title of a music album, you would use italics. For example,Nina Simone Live in Paris. The titles of plays and films are also italicized. For example,A Doll’s HouseorRaging Bull.
    • The titles of television series or shows as a whole should be italicized. For example,FriendsorThe Mindy Project.
  4. Italicize the title of a painting, a drawing, a sculpture or mixed media pieces.Visual artworks, such as paintings, drawings, sculptures, and mixed media pieces, should be cited using italics. For example, Vincent Van Gogh’sStarry Nightor Henry Moore’sReclining Figure.
  5. Use underlining for titles only if required by your professor.Though underlining was once popular for titles of longer works in the past, in recent times italicizing has been used in MLA style. Some copy editors and publishers prefer titles in italics rather than underlined, as italics are thought to be more aesthetically pleasing than underlines.
    • Check with your professor or teacher about her preference for underlying or italics before you format titles in a paper or an assignment so you do not get docked points due to formatting errors. If your professor does want you to use underlining instead of italics, follow the same steps above using underlining instead of italics.

Capitalizing Titles In Text and As References

  1. Capitalize the first and last word of the title for MLA style.The general rule of thumb for titles is that all “important” words should be capitalized. At the very least, the first and last words in the title should be capitalized when you are using MLA style to title your original works and works as a reference for a bibliography.
    • You must capitalize the first and last word in the title as well as every noun, verb, adjective, and adverb. For example, the title “poem about a happy day” would appear as “Poem about a Happy Day.”
    • Do not use all capitals to format the title, for example, “MOBY DICK”. Instead, only capitalize the first letter of each word, for example, “Moby Dick”.
  2. Capitalize only the first word of the title for APA style.APA style is often used for scientific writing or based on a professor’s preference. In APA style, you only capitalize the first word of the title of any books in text and in your reference list. For example, in APA style, the title would be: “The wise man on the mountain.”
    • In APA style, you also only capitalize the first word of any subtitles in the title. For example, “The wise man on the mountain: A true story”.
  3. Do not capitalize prepositions or articles.Prepositions, such as “about”, “after”, “but”,“except”, and “from” should not be capitalized in titles. You also do not need to capitalize articles, such as “a”, “an”, “and”, “the”, and “of”, in titles. This applies to MLA and APA style.
    • For example, the title “wise man on the mountain” would appear as: “Wise Man on the Mountain.”
    • The exception to this rule is if the title begins with a preposition or article. The preposition or article would be capitalized in this case. For example, the title “the sound and the fury” would appear as: “The Sound and the Fury.”
  4. Capitalize proper nouns and names.A proper noun is a noun that names a specific item, rather than a common item. For example, “cookie” is a noun, while “Oreo” is a proper noun. You should capitalize proper nouns in all titles, regardless of if you are using MLA or APA style.
    • You should also make sure you capitalize any names of persons or key historical events in a title. This could be a well known cultural or political figure, or the name of a historical event.
    • For example, the title “The ramifications of Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution” would appear as: “The Ramifications of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution”.
  5. Adjust the capitalization based on the length of the title.Sometimes, in shorter titles, all of the words are capitalized. For example, “Losing My Religion” or “Why Not Me?” In titles that are longer than five words, you may capitalize only the first and last words.
    • When in doubt, more capitalization is better than too little capitalization. You can also look up the title if it already exists in print and check to see how the author or publisher capitalizes the title.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Should I end a quote or theme with a period?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, quotes and themes are still sentences and every sentence should have a period to finish it.
  • Question
    How do I punctuate the name of a software class as part of a hospital's training curriculum? The title of the class is Customer Service/Self-Pay Follow Up.
    Top Answerer
    There's nothing wrong with the way you've punctuated the title, although for the sake of clarity you could include a space immediately before and after the slash mark, and you could add a hyphen between "Follow" and "Up."
  • Question
    How do I punctuate the title of this book: "The Baby-Sitters Club Mary Anne Saves The Day"?
    Top Answerer
    "The Baby-Sitters Club: Mary Anne Saves the Day"
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