To Italicize or Not to Italicize? A Rule of Thumb

Writers need to know what types of terms are put in italics.

Think in terms of relative size. Shorter works are not italicized but go in quotes. A short story would be in quotes, but a short story anthology with many stories would have an italicized title. Songs, poems, unpublished works, articles are in quotes. An epic poem is in italics, though, so I suppose it’s up to you to decide if it’s sufficiently long enough to merit the italics.

Here’s a partial list of the things that need to be italicized:

• Titles of photographs
• Titles of art exhibits
• Titles of blogs (the main title used each time, not the web url)
• Title of podcast programs
• Title of a painting
• Title of a book
• Title of a movie
• Title of a play
• Title of a pamphlet or report
• Title of a music album or CD
• A foreign term (if you use it repeatedly, only italicize it the first time. Do not italicize a foreign name like Fifi LaPlant or a foreign city or street name.)

Note: the name of a website is just in regular headline style: “I like to browse Technium.com for new tech tips.”

52 Responses to “To Italicize or Not to Italicize? A Rule of Thumb”

  1. Dan Thompson August 10, 2012 at 5:26 am #

    Names of ships.

    Since I write a lot of space opera, you’d be amazed at how often that comes up.

  2. Becky Doughty August 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    Oh, I NEEDED this (if I could have, I probably would italicized that instead of capitalizing….

    Thanks,
    Becky

    • Becky Doughty August 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

      Not sure where the other parenthesis went. Here you go. )

  3. Marilynn Byerly August 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    When you are writing online, particularly emails for promotions, it’s always a good idea to write a title in all caps as well as italicize because italics disappear with remarkable frequency. This is particularly true if you are promoting a book.

    • cslakin August 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

      This is ture. However, the Say What section is aimed at teaching correct style for editing in the US, so these rules apply to the body of your text.

  4. Tara June 16, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    If the title of a thesis is written in CAPS and it includes a published work of an author, for example: DYSTOPIA IN SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN. Does the work, in this case FRANKENSTEIN, needs to be Italicized? Thanks

    • cslakin June 17, 2015 at 6:18 am #

      Yep, whether you use the full title or a partial, you’d italicize the words (don’t use all caps in fiction).

  5. Miliannie November 27, 2016 at 11:54 am #

    If you are listing awards that an author has earned, would they be italicized?

    • cslakin November 27, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

      No. “He won the Nobel Peace Prize.”

  6. Lydia October 25, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

    I’m writing a personal essay and I was wondering if i needed to italicize Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. (names of parks in Disney World) As well as Disney World itself please email me back asap! (lydia.maz03@gmail.com)

    • cslakin October 25, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

      Yep

      • Aaron March 17, 2018 at 1:17 pm #

        I’m confused! Everything I have read says names of places are not italicized. Is it only real places? In Fiction are places just capitalized and not italicized? What about ALL CAPS or “quotations”?
        EX: Frank pulled his car into the parking lot of his usual haunt, Joe Schmo’s Bar.
        His car stopped in front of a strip club with a neon sign that read, TEASERS. Or “TEASERS”
        Short named places look weird not being in ALL CAPS and most actual signs are in ALL CAPS!
        Speaking of… What about street signs and other types of signs? Most if not all are in ALL CAPS!

        EX: He didn’t notice the sign that stated, ALL VEHICLES WILL BE TOWED AFTER 1:00 AM.
        OR He didn’t notice the sign that stated, “All Vehicles Will Be Towed After 1:00 AM.”

        EX: At the crossroads he saw a sign that read, Hilltop Cemetery 3 Miles, but he turned in the other direction.
        OR At the crossroads he saw a sign that read, “Hilltop Cemetery 3 Miles”, but he turned in the other direction.

        EX: The chapel’s marquee read, Funeral Service for John Smith.
        OR The chapel’s marquee read, “Funeral Service for John Smith.”

        EX: Tin cans were tied to his back bumper and it was adorned with a Just Married sign.
        OR Tin cans were tied to his back bumper and it was adorned with a “Just Married” sign.
        OR should Just Married be italicized? (For some reason it won’t let me do it on here?)

        What about a person who is reading a note/message?
        EX: Bill picked up the note Susan had left on the counter. Tears filled his eyes as he read, “I’m sorry Billy, but I just can’t do this anymore.”
        OR
        Looking through the microfilm, his eyes stopped on a newspaper article entitled, “Tragic Accident Takes the Life of Local Youth.”

        All of the above are examples that I am dealing with in my fictional short story. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. LOL Seriously though, any and all help would be GREATLY appreciated! Thank you for your valuable time. Aaron

        • cslakin March 17, 2018 at 1:24 pm #

          Names of places are not italicized. “I live in Los Angeles.” We don’t italicize the name of our town or country. With signs, you can use all caps if the sign is all caps, but that isn’t required or even always desired. You could just write: The sign said “Keep Out!” With signs, you do use quotes. Or if it’s a generic, you would say: He slowed at the Stop sign. And you don’t use a comma after the verb: The sign said “Keep Out!” Same rules with a note or letter. Newspaper article titles are in quotes. The name of the newspaper is in italics.

    • Daniela November 6, 2018 at 4:37 pm #

      First ride today is the Avatar Flight of Passage –

      watched the show Frozen again –

      The ride is set in the world of Avatar.

      please send me an email

      thank you so much

  7. Jasmine November 26, 2017 at 4:19 am #

    When writing an essay, do you italicize a course name? The internet offers two conflicting opinions on the topic.

    Thanks.

  8. Lilibeth Gonzalez December 2, 2017 at 9:04 pm #

    Do I need to italicize The Huffington Post?

    • cslakin December 2, 2017 at 9:14 pm #

      All newspaper titles are italicized, but the titles of blogs are not. Their sections or titled pages would go in quotes (CMOS 8.191).

  9. Yuki April 14, 2018 at 7:02 am #

    Do I need to italicize a foreign prize name?
    I’m writing the below sentence and wondering whether or not to italicize the prize name, Kyo no Shinise. Or, should I use double quotation marks for it?

    We received a prize Kyo no Shinise (a long-established company in Kyoto) from the governor of Kyoto prefecture.

    *Kyoto is a prefecture in Japan.

    • cslakin April 14, 2018 at 7:17 am #

      Usually prizes would have a proper name, like the Pulitzer or Nobel Peace Prize, so would be capitalized.

      • Yuki April 14, 2018 at 8:06 am #

        Thanks! Then, no need to italicize the word Kyo No Shinise (<–capitalized) although it's a foreign word?

        • cslakin April 14, 2018 at 8:09 am #

          Usually you italicize a foreign word or phrase, so I probably would. I don’t know if there are definitive rules about this specifically.

          • Yuki April 14, 2018 at 8:16 am #

            Thank you, your advices are helpful.

          • Yuki April 14, 2018 at 8:17 am #

            Thank you! Your advices have been helpful.

  10. Eve May 31, 2018 at 8:23 am #

    If I am referring to Edward Scissorhands the character (comparing his scissorhands to a cat’s paw movements) and not the movie, is it italicized? It’s confusing when the movie title (which should be italicized) is also the name of the character.

    • cslakin June 2, 2018 at 7:37 am #

      A person’s name is never italicized. Movie names are.

  11. Carmel Breathnach June 26, 2018 at 12:59 pm #

    How about literary events eg. I have read at Open Up Readers Series? Do I italicize this or leave it as is? Thank you!

    • cslakin June 26, 2018 at 1:07 pm #

      Normally events have names and they’d be in quotes. There is a difference between “Open Up” Readers’ Series and “Open Up, Readers” Series and “Open Up Readers’ Series.” So the quotes will help make the name and meaning clear.

      • Carmel Breathnach June 26, 2018 at 1:09 pm #

        Thank you!

  12. Yuki July 20, 2018 at 6:06 pm #

    Title of a song (not album) usually comes with double quotation marks e.g. “Strawberry Fields Forever”, but if the song title is a foreign word e.g. “Arigatou”, then should it be italicized with double quotation marks? I’m writing a credit of a music album.

    • cslakin July 21, 2018 at 10:18 am #

      That’s a good question, and I’m not sure of the answer? You could Google that. Usually, you would not italicize, just as you wouldn’t a street or restaurant name in the US that is a foreign word, such as Bonjour Lane (if there was something like that). Let me know what you find out.

      • Yuki July 22, 2018 at 7:57 am #

        Thanks for the reply. I have Googled and found no plain rules, but similar cases (foreign word title of a song) are not italicized. So I would only use double quotation marks for the title. Thanks!!

  13. Naomi October 3, 2018 at 9:00 am #

    How would you manage a reference to a best seller list such as this:

    TIME’s Best New Books to Read This Summer (June 2018)

    I’m thinking the following,but it’s awkward I think:

    TIME’s (italics) “Best New Books to Read This Summer” (June 2018)

    Thank you!

    • cslakin October 4, 2018 at 6:42 am #

      Hi, you wouldn’t put Time in all caps. Titles of magazines are in italics. I’d put the list in quotes to make it clear it’s a list.

  14. H. October 23, 2018 at 9:18 am #

    How about the name of a film festival? I have a French film festival I’m referring to. It has an accented letter in it. Would it be in italics?

    • cslakin October 27, 2018 at 3:34 pm #

      As far as I know, titles of festivals are not italicized, regardless of the language. But I’ll have to see if I can find out anything on this.

  15. Rebecca November 2, 2018 at 8:07 pm #

    Please advise on the treatment for titles of movements (No Child Left Behind, Black Lives Matter, etc), particularly when used in a list. Ex: “Becoming a teacher at the beginning of No Child Left Behind, the National Reading Panel, and Reading First could have set the tone for her entire career…” It seems that italics would help distinguish those as titles for the reader.

    • cslakin November 5, 2018 at 8:05 am #

      I’ve not ever seen them italicized. Having them in caps makes it pretty clear it’s a proper name or title.

  16. caitlyn g mount January 7, 2019 at 8:55 am #

    Hey,

    I’m writing a discussion post for a class I am taking, and the subject I am talking about is a podcast. Are podcast titles italicized? if not what is the proper way to write it out?

  17. Lermu October 18, 2019 at 4:20 pm #

    so would the short stories of mark twain be italicized? like life on the Mississippi and the notorious jumping frog.

    • cslakin October 19, 2019 at 2:09 pm #

      Short stories are in quotes, whereas a title of a book of short stories would be italicized.

  18. Susan Halio October 25, 2019 at 11:15 am #

    I’m editing a memoir with a lot of foreign place names. The table of contents is the first place most of these appear. Are they italicized here and not in the actual text? Or should they be italicized in the first time they appear in the body of the work and not thereafter?

    • cslakin October 28, 2019 at 7:01 am #

      Places aren’t in italics, so you don’t need to worry. We don’t italicize either the Americanized or the actual foreign name–for instance: Florence, Italy or Firenze, Italy.

  19. Brandy Miller March 2, 2020 at 7:50 am #

    Good morning.

    I am assisting someone on writing her grant. She insists on hand writing it, and that her grammar shows who she truly is. I feel it needs to be correct where applicable. She has already hand written it, and I thought that the name of the club should either be underlined, since it cannot be italicized, or have quotes around it. I am not finding the name of clubs as a rule. Can you please advise?

    The sentence..

    I started the first Cooking Something Delicious Club on Valentine’s Day last spring.

    Thank you very much for your time.

    Brandy

    • cslakin March 2, 2020 at 7:55 am #

      The name of a club would just have caps: I joined the Denver Radical Skiiers club, for example. You usually don’t cap the word club unless it’s actually part of the name.

  20. jean March 2, 2020 at 8:23 am #

    Would you italicize the name of a television special like How the Grinch Stole Christmas?

    • cslakin March 2, 2020 at 8:41 am #

      Yes, any movies or TV specials or mini series or the like would be italicized. An episode of a show would not be (would be in quotes). Think: big things are italicized, and smaller pieces of those big things are in quotes. Blog titles though are just regular font, title caps, but the posts on the blog would be in quotes. Live Write Thrive has a post called “To italicise or Not to Italicize.” (example)

    • cslakin March 6, 2020 at 8:12 am #

      Yes, TV specials are movies, not episodes within a series. Make sense?

  21. Dave March 18, 2020 at 11:03 am #

    What about companies, do they need to be in italics?
    Example:

    Franklin & Jones, LLC ?
    Lowes?
    Rust-Oleum?

    Thanks!

  22. Sandra Montanino March 29, 2020 at 4:51 pm #

    In a novel, do I italicize the whole name with the title or just the title or neither? Like Signora Arelli or Dottore Martino?

    • cslakin April 2, 2020 at 8:37 am #

      You italicize the title of the book. Not the author’s name.

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