Italicizing Book Titles, or Should you?

I do. And I have done so for some time now. But it isn’t universal. It really depends on your personal preference and the style guide you learned from.

In college and I think also in high school I was taught MLA style. And they have you italicize book titles. But the AP Stylebook would have you place quotation marks around book titles in your writing. To me, italics are just easier to read and less confusing. When I come across quotation marks in written text I’m immediately thinking that I’m about to read some dialogue. Maybe that’s just me? No idea. I think you can also underline book titles if you want? But I believe the practice has been largely replaced by italicizing.

There may not be only one way to identify book titles in written text, but there is one thing that you shouldn’t do. You shouldn’t just write the title as if it were any other group of words without properly identifying it in some way. Why? Because how is your reader, whomever it may be, supposed to know that they’re reading the title of a book if the text looks no different from the rest?

The message is that italics, quotation marks, and underlines really don’t matter as long as you use one.

PS: I’m leaving on my trip I announced a little while back this week! I’d said I wouldn’t be blogging, but maybe I’ll post quick 100-125 word posts during my travels. I think.

14 thoughts on “Italicizing Book Titles, or Should you?

  1. I do, and ask that my students do as well. I just graded a critical review of a book in which the student did not italicize the book title and in fact, did not even get the title of the book correct. Ugh.


  2. I’ve been italicizing book titles for a while, since I started blogging. But before then, it was always underline or quotes.

    I recently wrote a paper for a literature class, and the professor docked me two points because I italicized the book titles and didn’t use quotes. Which was very frustrating.

    I guess it really does all come down to preference.


  3. Since I mostly review poetry collections and anthologies of short stories, I italicize the titles of the collections and anthologies and use quote marks for the titles of individual poems and short stories.


  4. I use Goodreads to track/review books I’m reading, and in their reviews you cannot use italics. It drives me nuts. A lot of people are using all caps for book titles, but I largely dislike it because you’ll be reading along and then you read BOOK TITLE and it feels like they are yelling the name of the book at me every time. 😦


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