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Ah, To Capitalize, Underline, Or Italicize That Title That Is The Question!
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Laying word upon word, you mortar in and around and between them with commas and colons and periods. You place word upon word, sentence upon sentence, paragraph upon paragraph.
Eh, voila! Your building sings!
Now, perhaps not so enthusiastically, you are an editor. You stand back and study the integrity of your creation. Will it stand on its own? Will the light shine through the windows? Will it withstand the ages?
You go through it and over it and underneath it, inch by inch by inch.
Ah, what's that? Up there, the title in the archway? Aren't titles supposed to be underlined? Or is that capitalized? Or perhaps italicized?
Oh no! You can't remember! Now surely your creation will crumble!
Still, perfection is in the details.
According to the MLA Handbook (published by the Modern Language Association), there is a trick to punctuating titles: the "big" and "little" trick.
• "Big" things (things that can stand on their own, like novels and books) are italicized.
• "Little" things (things that are dependent upon a "big" thing, or that come as part of a group, like chapters) are placed inside quotation marks.
You would italicize:
• the title of a novel
• the title of a play or a screenplay
• the title of a CD or an album
• the title of a published collection (like a book of poetry)
• the title of a magazine or a newspaper
• the title of an individual work of art (a painting, a sculpture, a statue)
• the title of a television or cartoon series
You would use quotation marks for:
• the title of a chapter
• the title of a song
• the title of a poem within a collection
• the title of an article in a magazine or a newspaper
• the title of an episode of a television series
There are exceptions, as always, to properly presenting titles. For example, some titles are capitalized (without any additional punctuation). This includes the names of buildings and monuments, as well as the names of religious works (such as The Bible and The Koran).
Of course, if you are averse to making these types of adverse mistakes, a style guide is highly recommended, including:
• The Chicago Manual of Style
• MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
• Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
• Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers
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