Titles of works: italics or quotation marks

Today we’re going to talk about titles of works (movies, books, articles, and more) and whether they should be in italics or quotation marks. You’ll learn the rules in The Chicago Manual of Style, which is the style guide people who edit books use. The Associated Press Stylebook, which is the style guide newspapers use, has a different set of rules. If you want to learn those rules, you can find a quick guide here.

Books, newspapers, and magazines
Titles of books, newspapers, and magazines should be italicized.

I heard that the book A History of Princess Crowns is fascinating.
The astronaut had a subscription to the newspaper Mars Daily.
Marsha likes the magazine Cats Monthly because it has cute photos.

Articles and chapters
Titles of articles in newspapers or magazines and chapter titles in books should be in quotation marks.

Did you read the article “Fun with Flesh-eating Bacteria” in the magazine?
My favorite chapter in the book was “Germs are gross.”

Movies, television shows, radio programs, and plays
Titles of movies, television shows, radio programs, and plays should be italicized.

The gardener’s favorite movie is the documentary Plants Are Awesome.
The scientist watches the television show World’s Weirdest Germs every Tuesday night.
Sally’s mom loved listening to the radio show Stuff Old People Like.
The little girl’s favorite play was Cute, Fuzzy Animals in the Forest.

Poems and songs
Titles of poems and songs should be in quotation marks.

In high school, Sally wrote a poem called “Johnny Is Cute.”
She also wrote a song called “I Think I’m in Love with Johnny.”

Test your skills with this quiz. Look at the titles in bold and choose whether they should be italicized or in quotation marks. The answers are at the bottom.

1. The most popular article in today’s City Tribune is Boy Rescues Cat from Tree.
2. Francis worked all week on his song That Jerk Stole my Heart.
3. Lacy was sad because she missed Sassy Girls’ Island on television last night.
4. Did you get to the chapter Workouts for the Lazy Man in the book The Lazy Man’s Guide to Life?
5. I tried not to fall asleep during the play The Calm and the Quiet because it was really boring.
6. Steve had to read the poem The Cat Eats Rats for school.
7. After Frank heard the movie review for Car Crashes and Blood on the radio show Watch these Movies, he couldn’t wait to see it.

1. italics, quotation marks 2. quotation marks 3. italics 4. quotation marks, italics 5. italics 6. quotation marks 7. italics, italics

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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12 thoughts on “Titles of works: italics or quotation marks

  1. Quick question. I ran into a problem trying to construct the sentence below.

    According to the nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child,” “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.”

    “Monday’s Child is the name of the rhyme and it’s a song so it gets quotation marks so the title should get quotation marks. Now I’m quoting a nursery rhyme that happens to be a song, but since I’m focusing on the rhyme, I believe the line I’m quoting get’s quotation marks too. . However, It seems strange to have “Monday’s Child,” “Wednesday’s Child….” directly next to each other. The alternative is to break up the sentence by mentioning the author, but nursery rhymes don’t always have authors (though this one does) and I want to try to make the sentence above work as it is. I just want to confirm whether the sentence above is correct. What do you think?


    • Thanks for your question. The way you currently have the sentence is correct. Since you list the name of the song/poem and then give a direct quotation, both parts need quotation marks. However, if I were writing this, I would try to break it up a bit, such as with your suggestion of adding the author’s name after “Monday’s Child.” I agree with you that it looks a little strange having “Monday” and “Wednesday” next to each other.


  2. Pingback: Going out of style « The Pork Chop

  3. Pingback: Quotation marks within quotation marks | Grammar Party

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