Titles: Underline, Italics, or Quotations?
(printable version here)
When writing about other works, it's hard to decide when to underline (or place in italics) a title and when to place it in double quotations. Note that some publications have a "house style" that must be followed. When in doubt, however, these guidelines from the Modern Language Association may help:
For titles of written or musical works that are published within other works use double quotations; underline or italicize names of works published by themselves:
ex. I just read the short story "Looking for Jake" in China Miéville's anthology of the same name, Looking for Jake.
ex. Beckett's play Waiting for Godot will be performed next season.
ex. Devo's second album, Duty Now for the Future, has one of my favorite songs, "Swelling Itching Brain."
ex. Yes, I went to a science-fiction convention. I really enjoy the original Star Trek TV series, especially the episode "Return of the Archons," and the first three Star Wars films, especially The Empire Strikes Back, okay?
ex. I read the story "All about the Bronx" in the city section of today's New York Times.
ex. I have subscribed to my favorite magazine, The Atlantic, for many years.
For names of artwork, always use italics or underlining:
ex. We have a copy of Edward Hopper's painting Nighthawks in the Writing Center lobby. I always think about it when I'm listening to Tom Wait's CD Nighthawks at the Diner.
For the names of famous aircraft, ships, and spacecraft, always use italics or underlining:
ex. I built scale models of the USS Nimitz and the space shuttle Discovery last year.
ex. The Bible, Book of Exodus, or Qu'ran do not get underlined in the text of a paper. A specific edition would, however, be underlined in a works-cited list. Their titles are capitalized.
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Italics and Underlining
Italics and underlining are like flashers on road signs. They make you take notice. Italics and underlining can be used interchangeably, although usually underlining is used when something is either hand written or typed; if using a computer you can italicize. If you start using italics, don't switch to underlining within the same document.
Italics or underlining are used most often: for titles of longer works: books, magazines, newspapers, films, TV shows, a complete symphony, plays, long poems, albums:
Albert Borgmann's book, Crossing the Postmodern Divide
the TV show Frasier
the film It Happened One Night
the magazine Adirondack Life
the Beatles album Abbey Road
Italics or underlining are also used for titles of paintings, sculptures, ships, trains, aircraft, and spacecraft:
Van Gogh's painting Starry Night
Daniel Chester French's sculpture The Spirit of Life
Tip: Shorter works, such a book chapters, articles, sections of newspapers, short stories, poems, songs, and TV episodes are placed in quotation marks.
Neither italics nor quotation marks are used with titles of major religious texts, books of the Bible, or classic legal documents:
the Bible Pentateuch the Koran the Declaration of Independence
Use italics or underlining when using words from another language:
Yggdrasil avatar Yahweh sabra
Tip: Many foreign words have become absorbed into our language and should not be italicized or underlined. When in doubt, consult the dictionary. Also, common Latin abbreviations should not be italicized or underlined:
etc. i.e. p.s. viz.
Use italics or underlining to emphasize, stress, or clarify a word or letter in a sentence or when using a word as a linguistic symbol rather than for its meaning:
It was the first time I felt appreciated by my children.
I asked you to articulate your findings, not create a flow chart.
He claimed his data to be accurate, but accurate is a word he often interprets loosely. My daughter's report card showed five B's, two B+'s and one glorious A.