When Not to Punctuate Titles


When Not to Punctuate Titles


It’s been my experience that students generally have a terrible time remembering to punctuate titles. They either use italics then they should be using quotation marks, use both italics and quotation marks, or — most common of all — fail to mark the title at all. I published a post some time ago explaining the simple rules for indicating titles.

But there is one instance where titles should be left alone — no underlining, italics, or quotation marks. It’s when the title appears on the work itself. Look at any book, magazine, CD or DVD cover. The titles are neither underlined nor italicized. This is not an error nor  artistic license. Titles should only be punctuated when they refer to the work in a secondary work, not on the work itself.

Frankly, teachers get this wrong all the time. They often insist that titles of reports, essays and short stories be placed in quotation marks on the cover page of the paper. This is unnecessary. Stop doing that. Titles that appear at the top of a paper or on a separate cover sheet should be capitalized like a title — first, last and all important words — but that’s it.


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About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

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