Style Question for Writers: Italics or Quotes for Titles?

writing titles italics or quotes Chicago Manual of Style

Today’s Grammar Bite: How to style titles of TV shows, movies, songs, magazines, etc. I’ll even cover named vessels—crazy! 🙂

The rule of thumb—little things in quotes, big things in italics.  

Huh? you may be thinking.  

Think of it this way—a lot of works consist of smaller pieces. Books are a collection of chapters, magazines are made up of articles, TV shows are a series of episodes, an album includes a number of songs, and so on and so forth. With me so far?

So with that in mind, here’s an example: a larger work such as a TV show title is in italics, whereas the smaller “piece” of it is in quotes.  Capitalization should be headline style (first word capitalized, subsequent words capitalized except articles and prepositions).

Some of the more common examples:

  • Newspaper / Article: the Monroe News Star / “West Monroe’s Robinson Joins Elite Company”
  • Magazine / Article: Glamour / “30 Fun Outfit Ideas to Try in April”
  • Movie: The Man of Steel
  • Plays / Acts: Our Town / “Daily Life”
  • TV Show / Episode: Glee / “Sweet Dreams”
  • Book / Chapter: The Lord of Castle Black by Steven Brust / “How Tazendra Put the Empress’s Suggestion into Action”
  • Album / Song: Retrospective by the Animals / “We Gotta Get out of This Place”

Some other works that get italicized:

Musicals: “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” from South Pacific

Opera: “Un bel dì” (One fine day) from Madam Butterfly

Paintings: Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana at the Hermitage of Bharadvaja from the Kangra Valley in Hamachal Pradesh, ca. 1780

Podcasts: Author Stories, hosted by Hank Garner

Photographs: Mammatus by Mitch Dobrowner

Sculptures: Michelangelo’s David

Video games: Call of Duty

aaaannnnddd… I promised you the names of vessels

Named vessels (such as ships, space shuttles, etc.) are always in italics, though not the abbreviation: USS Ronald Regan, HMS Surprise, space shuttle Discovery.

Happy writing!

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