Formatting Titles

How do we properly format the titles of media and documents when we write about them in our assignments?

When you are referring to any book (including a book of poems, stories, articles, etc.), as well as an album or newspaper, the title should be underlined or italicized. If you are referring to an individual poem, story, or article, the title should be in quotation marks. In other words, we distinguish between a major published document or work (e.g. book, album, magazine, newspaper, play) and the parts that make up that major document (e.g. chapter, poem, song, essay, short story, scene). This distinction is especially helpful when you are creating a bibliographical entry (also here) or a footnote that requires you to name an article and the book or magazine where it's found.

(If you are typing, you have the option of choosing whether to underline or italicize major works. Just make sure to use your choice consistently.)

In other words, the larger unit is underlined or italicized, while the smaller, constituent unit is enclosed in "quotation marks". Here are some colour-coded examples within a bibliography, but this distinction also applies to individual titles inside your paragraphs and essays.

aFox, Charles James. "Liberty Is Order, Liberty Is Strength". What Is a Man?
        3,000 Years of Wisdom on the Art of Manly Virtue.
Ed. Waller R. Newell.
        New York: Harper, 2001. 306-7.

aCave, Andrew. "Microsoft and Sun Settle Java Battle". Daily Telegraph [London]
        25 Jan. 2001: 36.

aBelava, Antoaneta. "China to Formalize One-Child Policy". Asia Times Online. 
        24 May 2001. 10 Oct. 2005 <>.

Here are some more examples:

Major Published Document
Constituent Parts
(Fiction or Non-Fiction)

75 Readings Plus or
75 Readings Plus

Chapter/Essay/Short Story

"A Modest Proposal"

(When referring to a chapter without a title, don't
worry about quotation marks. Simply capitalize it
like this: Chapter 9.

Book (of Poetry)

Poetry Alive or
Poetry Alive


"The Road Not Taken"


Maclean's or


"Distance Education: Is It For You?"


Globe and Mail or
Globe and Mail

News Story/Editorial

"China's Business Miracle"


Chilliwack's Greatest Hits or
Chilliwack's Greatest Hits


"Fly By Night"

Play (or Movie)

Macbeth or

Star Wars or
Star Wars


Act 2, Scene 1

(Usually we omit the quotation marks
for an act and/or scene. Capitalization
and a comma are sufficient.)

As you will often find in English, there is an exception to the general rule. If you cite a play or a novel that's included in a large anthology of literature, the play or novel should be placed within quotation marks for the bibliography but still underlined or italicized in your essay. Thus, Death of a Salesman is
italicized in your essay, but it is in quotation marks ("Death of a Salesman") when placed in a bibliography that cites the play within the anthology Discovering Literature.

Also remember that all words in a title should be capitalized (except for interior conjunctions [e.g. Love or Money], which may be lower case).