How To Punctuate Titles

Punctuating titles of books and other works within your writing can sometimes be tricky. In fact, even the most experienced writers often have trouble remembering these rules. Some are underlined or italicized, while other titles are used in quotation marks. Still others require no punctuation at all. Here's how to punctuate titles:

  1. Larger works are italicized. Books, published collections, CDs, television series, and other large standalone works are italicized, preferably. They may also be underlined, a rule which goes back to the days of typewriters when it was not always possible to italicize words in your writing. The names of large works of art, such as the Mona Lisa, are also underlined or italicized. The rule of thumb is that major works should always be italicized or underlined, while smaller works or parts of works are placed in quotation marks.
  2. Smaller works are put into quotation works. This includes chapters from books, articles from a magazine or newspaper, individual episodes of a television show, or a song from a CD. The name of a photograph would also be placed in quotation marks. These are often the smaller portions of larger works; if the title for the larger work was used in your writing, it would be italicized. When using quotation marks in a sentence, remember that periods, commas, and other punctuation marks are used inside the last quotation mark.
  3. Some titles need no punctuation. There are a few titles that should be capitalized, but do not need to be underlined, italicized, or placed in quotation marks. These include religious works (such as The Bible or The Koran) as well as the names of buildings or monuments.
  4. Translate into English, if necessary. If the work you are referencing is a foreign work with a non-English name, in most cases you should translate the title into English. The exception is if the work is widely known by its original foreign name.
  5. Remember your capitalization rules. When punctuating titles in your writing, most words are capitalized. Remember to capitalize the main words, including the first and last words of the title, and any other words that are four letters or longer. You don't need to capitalize any prepositions or conjunctions that are shorter than four letters; which often includes 'the,' 'a,' and 'and,' unless they are the first or last words in the title.

Punctuating titles can be tricky because there are so many rules to follow. When it comes to titles, obtaining the proper style in your writing is a matter of remembering when to underline/italicize, when to place the title in quotations, and when to leave it without punctuation. You must also remember how to capitalize the title, as well as when to translate a foreign title into English. 


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