Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: Italics or Not?

POSTED BY KAREN WOJCIK BERNER


Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?





When referring to movies or books in your writing, do you put quotation marks around the titles or should they be italicized?

Do you capitalize all of the words and articles in a title? 


What about a particular song in a part of an album, opera, or symphony?

How about paintings? Video games? Television shows? Plays?

What if your character is watching Modern Family or playing Fortnite?




What do I do with the articles?

Well, it depends what you are writing. 

In all cases, the main words of the title should be capitalized. Do not capitalize articles, such as a, and, the, or an, unless they are the first word of the work’s title. Nothing should appear in full caps but acronyms, such as computer programming languages or association names.




Magazines or newspapers

If you're writing for a magazine or newspaper, The Associated Press Stylebook (AP Style) states to place composition titles in quotation marks. Simple. Done.




Books 

However, if you are writing a novel or nonfiction book, put the title in italics, according to The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). I’ve chosen to follow that rule for this blog as well.


Titles of movies, plays, video games, TV shows, podcasts, and radio programs are always italicized, along with famous works of art, such as paintings, photographs, and statues.

Examples

Black Panther

King Lear

Grant Wood’s American Gothic

The Four Seasons by Vivaldi

Call of Duty

Don Giovanni

Until My Soul Gets It Right

Parts of books, individual chapters, articles from magazines, or individual poems from larger works should be enclosed in quotation marks, but the full work should be in italics.

Examples

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” from Prufrock and Other Observations

An article in Fire Chief magazine, “Fast-Response Residential Sprinklers Take the Fire Service Into the Future,” features research on that issue.

The word "magazine" should only be italicized if it is part of the official title of the periodical, such as in Time magazine and the New York Times Magazine.


Songs

Songs are treated the same way as articles and parts of books, so an individual song title should be in quotation marks, while the full album should be italicized

Example

The Clash’s "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" appeared on their Combat Rock album.


Online sites

The titles of websites, web pages, and social networking sites are not italicized.

Examples

Google Maps

Facebook

Twitter

However, if the website has or had a printed counterpart, CMS recommends italicizing it, but that is subject to the editor’s discretion, which makes it more confusing. It would be easier not to italicize any website or social networking site period. But, since it's up to the editor's discretion, it could go either way.



Blogs

The names of blogs are italicized, but individual posts should be placed in quotation marks.

Example

Bibliophilic Blather;  "Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: Red-Flag Words," by Karen Wojcik Berner


Hint

The best way to remember this is that most of the time, the larger work is italicized, while a smaller part of it should be in quotation marks, unless you're writing for a newspaper or magazine. Then pretty much all titles and parts are put in quotation marks per AP Style.


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References

These books are on my desk at all times. Maybe they'll help you as well.

The Associated Press Stylebook, 2017 edition
The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition
Strunk and White's The Elements of Style
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition





Bio

A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied experience includes such topics as grammar, blog content, book reviews, corporate communications, the arts, paint and coatings, real estate, the fire service, writing and literature, research, and publishing. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, Naperville Magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of the Bibliophiles series, contemporary fiction with a sprinkling of the classics, and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. For more information on Karen, please visit www.karenberner.com.

Comments

?wazithinkin said…
I more or less follow these rules. However, since Amazons reviews don't show italics, I put the title of the books in quotes but add the book series in all capitals. On the blog I do use italics for the book title and add the series in all caps as well. Is this wrong?
R. Doug Wicker said…
Excellent, excellent article. Well done, Karen. I learned a lot.
Mel Parish said…
Great post, Karen. I always get confused about titles and quotes. Now I know!
angel011 said…
Awesome, I get confused about italics.
I'm so glad I could help, everyone.

?wasithinkin, I know what you're talking about regarding Amazon reviews. Putting them in quotation marks is the right thing to do since italics are not available. The series don't need to be in caps, I don't think, although that is another way social media designates books. For the blog, italics for the book titles is correct, but again, I don't think it's necessary to put the series in caps. However, it can be a stylistic choice, if you like to do it that way. Ultimately, the most important thing is consistency.
I always use CMoS, and I have a chart that tells me how to address all of these. It's bookmarked of course, because that thing is gold. :)
You're right, Kelly. I can't count the amount of times I've looked up this topic.

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