Which Titles Are Italicized and Which Are Enclosed in Quotation Marks?

by Tina Blue
January 4, 2001

There are only a few simple rules to follow when deciding how to punctuate a title that occurs within a body of prose.

NOTE: The title of an article or essay is not enclosed in quotation marks, italicized or underlined at the top of the page. The reason for punctuating a title that occurs in a body of prose is to set it off and to identify it as a title. When the title of an article or an essay appears over the article, its position is sufficient to identify it as the title.


     ~Italics are used primarily to punctuate the titles of full-length works that are published separately.  There are also a couple of specialized uses for italics with titles.

1. The titles of book-length works that are published separately are italicized. This includes books, full-length plays, if published separately, and long poems, if published separately:

Novel:  One Hundred Years of Solitude

Play:  Death of a Salesman

Long Poem:  Paradise Lost

     2. The titles of works that include shorter works are italicized. This includes anthologies and collections of songs, poems, short stories, short plays, and essays.

    3. The titles of newspapers and magazines are italicized.

    4. Technically, the titles of movies and television shows should be italicized, because individual scenes and episodes may have their own titles, which would be enclosed in quotation marks. The influence of newspaper reviewers, however, has undermined this principle, so you are likely to find the titles of movies and television shows enclosed in quotation marks.

    5. The names of ships, trains, airplanes and spacecraft are italicized, but not H.M.S. or U.S.S.:

U.S.S. Nimitz

H.M.S. Pinafore 

Starship Enterprise

Orient Express


  ~Quotation marks are used to punctuate titles of short works and parts of other works--i.e., titles of those works that are not published separately.

1. Chapter titles are enclosed in quotation marks (but not chapter numbers).

2. The titles of short stories are enclosed in quotation marks.

3. The titles of short poems are enclosed in quotation marks.

4. The titles of newspaper and magazine articles are enclosed in quotation marks.

5. The titles of essays are enclosed in quotation marks.

6. The title of a longer work that would be italicized if it were published separately (e.g., Paradise Lost or a play) would be enclosed in quotation marks if the work is included in a longer collection or anthology. For example, a collection of works by John Milton might be entitled The Complete Works of John Milton, and the title of the poem Paradise Lost or the drama Samson Agonistes, though they would usually be italicized, would be enclosed in quotation marks when reference was being made to the edition of which they were merely a part.


Long ago and in a galaxy far, far away, people had to type their work, or even write it out longhand. Unless you had your own printing press, you couldn't do italics. Therefore, when something needed to be italicized, that fact was represented by underlining. In other words, underlining something is equivalent to italicizing it, so it is not proper to both italicize and underline a title. (And, as with italics and quotation marks, titles are not underlined at the head of an essay or article.)
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