Remember the days when your manual typewriter didn’t have a key for the number 1, so you used a lowercase letter L instead? And to type an exclamation point, you typed an apostrophe first, backspaced, and then typed a period beneath it? Sure you do, punk.
Clarification: I’m not that old; my high school was poor. We pasted our newspaper dummies together with wax and made type changes with a dull razor.
Well, we don’t type that way anymore, because technology has blessed us with 1s and !s on our keyboards. Likewise, because we are capable of rendering type in italics, you underline titles only when writing them by hand or using software that doesn’t italicize. As long as you remember that underlining equals italics and to never underline when you can italicize, you’re good.
You can get pretty far by following the “Big/heavy equals italics” (like books) and “Small/light equals quotes” (like poems) generalizations.
As for enclosing titles in quotation marks or italicizing them, you can get pretty far by following the “Big/heavy equals italics” (like books) and “Small/light equals quotes” (like poems) generalizations, but Associated Press style doesn’t italicize nothin’ and Chicago style has layers of specificity and if-then statements. Fun!
Because the Associated Press stylebook is not indexed and the manual for Chicago style covers title style in several sections (intermixed with name style and capitalization style), some title styles may have been inadvertently omitted due to oblivion on my part. Please send me a note if any oversight makes you twitch.
It’s all arbitrary, so go for clarity and sustainability.
Following is the breakdown between AP style and Chicago style. This is intended as a quick rundown or cheat sheet; for examples of each, please refer to the pages and sections indicated. “Neither” means that the usual headline-style (or title-style) caps still apply, but the title/name is naked as far as quotes and italics are concerned. (Capitalization for titles will be covered in a future blog entry.)
Note: Use Command-F or Ctrl-F to perform searches.
|Titles for . . .||AP||Chicago|
|Albums||Quotes (p. 62)||Italics (8.192)|
|Almanacs||Neither (p. 62)|
|Apps||Neither (p. 62), e.g., Facebook, Foursquare||Italics (8.193)|
|Art||Quotes (p. 62)||Italics (8.193)|
|Bible||Neither (p. 62)|
|Blog entries||Quotes (8.187)|
|Books||Quotes (p. 62)—but the Bible and catalogs of reference material use neither||Italics (8.166)—but book series and editions use neither (8.174)|
|Catalogs||Neither (p. 62)|
|Classical music, nicknames||Quotes (p. 63)|
|Classical music, identified by sequence||Neither (p. 63)|
|Columns (in periodicals)||Neither (8.175, 14.205)|
|Comic strips||Italics (8.194)|
|Computer games and computer-game apps||Quotes (p. 62), e.g., “Farmville”||Italics (Chicago Style Q&A)|
|Computer software||Neither for software such as WordPerfect or Windows (p. 62)|
|Conferences||Neither (8.69)—unless it has “status,” then use quotes|
|Departments (in periodicals)||Neither (8.175, 14.202)|
|Dictionaries||Neither (p. 62)|
|Directories||Neither (p. 62)|
|Encyclopedias||Neither (p. 62)|
|Exhibitions (large)||Neither (8.195)|
|Exhibitions (small)||Italics (8.195)|
|Fairs (large)||Neither (8.195)|
|Fairs (small)||Italics (8.195)|
|Gazetteers||Neither (p. 62)|
|Handbooks||Neither (p. 62)|
|Journals||Italics (8.166)—unless part of name of award, organization, etc. (8.170)|
|Lecture series||Neither (8.86)|
|Lectures (individual)||Quotes (p. 62)||Quotes (8.86)|
|Magazines||Neither (p. 159)||Italics (8.166)—unless part of name of award, organization, etc. (8.170)|
|Meetings||Neither (8.69)—unless it has “status,” then use quotes|
|Movies||Quotes (p. 62)||Italics (8.185)|
|Newspapers||Italics (8.166)—unless part of name of award, organization, etc. (8.170)|
|Operas||Quotes (p. 62)||Italics (8.189)—for long musical compositions or instrumental works, see 8.189-8.190|
|Periodicals||Italics (8.166), unless part of name of award, organization, etc. (8.170)|
|Plays||Quotes (p. 62)||Italics (8.181)|
|Podcast episodes||Quotes (8.187)|
|Poems||Quotes (p. 62)||Quotes (8.179)—unless book length, then treated as book (italics)|
|Radio episodes (in series)||Quotes (8.185)|
|Radio programs and series||Quotes (p. 62)||Italics (8.185)|
|Short stories||Quotes (8.175)|
|Songs||Quotes (p. 62)||Quotes (8.189)|
|Speeches||Quotes (p. 62)||Neither (8.75)—unless it has “status,” then use quotes.|
|Television episodes (in series)||Quotes (8.185)|
|Television programs and series||Quotes (p. 62)||Italics (8.185)|
|Unpublished works||Quotes (8.184)|
|Video blogs||Italics (8.187)|
|Video-blog episodes||Quotes (8.187)|
|Web pages and sections||Quotes (8.186)|
When it gets confusing, just remember these golden rules of copyediting:
- Whatever you choose, be consistent.
- But beware of having a tin ear.
- It’s all arbitrary, so go for clarity and sustainability.
I love music. I’ve been teaching myself to play guitar, and I can stumble my way through four or five songs without wanting to poke holes in my eardrums, but my main appreciation for music is when other people play it. I’m an avid Spotify user, and I take a lot of pride in my ability to make kickass playlists. One of my girlfriends has even given me the green light to create her hypothetical wedding reception playlist.
So obviously, when I write about a song or album, I know when to use quotation marks and when to use italics. Let’s discuss.
Photo by Jo.Anne11
Here’s how it works:
Song Titles in “Quotes”
Song titles are always surrounded by quotation marks, like *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye,” or “A Whole New World” from Disney’s Aladdin.
Album Titles in Italics
Album titles, on the other hand, are always italicized. For example, while I will openly admit to loving Journey’s power ballad “Faithfully,” I think pretty much every song on their Greatest Hits album should be sung at karaoke nights across the country.
Other Italics Questions
Of course, lots more media have titles than just songs and albums. There are books, short stories, podcasts, TV shows, episodes . . . the list goes on and on. Want more italics advice? Check out our ultimate title-writing guide for answers to all your italics conundrums.
Sunday night was the closing ceremony of the Olympics, and I don’t know if you were paying attention, but the Spice Girls were there and dancing it up (well, except for Posh).
Take fifteen minutes and write about the hypothetical conversation the ladies of the group had in determining the songs they would play for the ceremony (or any other band in any other situation is fine too). Post your practice in the comments, and leave notes for other writers brave enough to publish as well.
Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.