Underline Quote Or Italicize Essay

An Introduction

We use italics (characters set in type that slants to the right) and underlining to distinguish certain words from others within the text. These typographical devices mean the same thing; therefore, it would be unusual to use both within the same text and it would certainly be unwise to italicize an underlined word. As word-processors and printers become more sophisticated and their published products more professional looking, italics are accepted by more and more instructors. Still, some instructors insist on underlines (probably because they went to school when italics were either technically difficult or practically unreadable). It is still a good idea to ask your instructor before using italics. (The APA Publication Manual continues to insist on underlining.) In this section, we will use italics only, but they should be considered interchangeable with underlined text.

These rules and suggestions do not apply to newspaper writing, which has its own set of regulations in this matter.

Italics do not include punctuation marks (end marks or parentheses, for instance) next to the words being italicized unless those punctuation marks are meant to be considered as part of what is being italicized: "Have you read Stephen King's Pet Semetary? (The question mark is not italicize here.) Also, do not italicize the apostrophe-s which creates the possessive of a title: "What is the Courant 's position on this issue?" You'll have to watch your word-processor on this, as most word-processors will try to italicize the entire word that you double-click on.

Titles

Generally, we italicize the titles of things that can stand by themselves. Thus we differentiate between the titles of novels and journals, say, and the titles of poems, short stories, articles, and episodes (for television shows). The titles of these shorter pieces would be surrounded with double quotation marks.

In writing the titles of newspapers, do not italicize the word the, even when it is part of the title (the New York Times), and do not italicize the name of the city in which the newspaper is published unless that name is part of the title: the Hartford Courant, but the London Times.

Other titles that we would italicize include the following:

  • Journals and Magazines:Time, U.S. News and World Report, Crazyhorse, Georgia Review
  • Plays:Waiting for Godot, Long Day's Journey Into Night
  • Long Musical Pieces: Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite (but "Waltz of the Flowers"), Schubert's Winterreise (but "Ave Maria"). For musical pieces named by type, number and key — Mozart's Divertimento in D major, Barber's Cello Sonata Op. 6 — we use neither italics nor quotation marks.
  • Cinema:Slingblade, Shine, The Invisible Man
  • Television and Radio Programs:Dateline, Seinfeld, Fresh Air, Car Talk
  • Artworks: the Venus de Milo, Whistler's The Artist's Mother
  • Famous Speeches: Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Washington's Second Inaugural Address (when that is the actual title of the speech)
  • Long Poems (that are extensive enough to appear in a book by themselves): Longfellow's Evangeline, Milton's Paradise Lost, Whitman's Leaves of Grass
  • Pamphlets:New Developments in AIDS Research

We do not italicize the titles of long sacred works: the Bible, the Koran. Nor do we italicize the titles of books of the Bible: Genesis, Revelation, 1 Corinthians.

When an exclamation mark or question mark is part of a title, make sure that that mark is italicized along with the title,

  • My favorite book is Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
  • I love Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go!

(Do not add an additional period to end such sentences.) If the end mark is not part of the title, but is added to indicate a question or exclamation, do not italicize that mark.

  • Did you enjoy Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain?

Names of Vehicles

  • Challenger
  • Titanic
  • Orient Express
  • U.S.S. Eisenhower (Don't italicize the U.S.S.)
  • H.M.S. Pinafore (Don't italicize the H.M.S. when you're talking about the ship. If you're talking about the light opera, then it's part of the title, H.M.S. Pinafore.)

We don't italicize names of vehicles that are brand names: Ford Explorer, Corvette, Nissan Pathfinder, Boeing 747.

Foreign Words or Phrases

  • If a word or phrase has become so widely used and understood that it has become part of the English language — such as the French "bon voyage" or the abbreviation for the latin et cetera, "etc." — we would not italicize it. Often this becomes a matter of private judgment and context. For instance, whether you italicize the Italian sotto voce depends largely on your audience and your subject matter.

Words as Words

    Examples:
  • The word basically is often unnecessary and should be removed.
  • There were four and's and one therefore in that last sentence. (Notice that the apostrophe-s, used to create the plural of the word-as-word and, is not italicized. See the section on Plurals for additional help.)
  • She defines ambiguity in a positive way, as the ability of a word to mean more than one thing at the same time.

For Emphasis

Note: It is important not to overdo the use of italics to emphasize words. After a while, it loses its effect and the language starts to sound like something out of a comic book.

  • I really don't care what you think! (Notice that just about any word in that sentence could have been italicized, depending on how the person said the sentence.)
  • These rules do not apply to newspaper writing.

Words as Reproduced Sounds

  • Grrr! went the bear. (But you would say "the bear growled" because growled reports the nature of the sound but doesn't try to reproduce it. Thus the bees buzz but go bzzzz and dogs bark woof!)
  • His head hit the stairs, kathunk!

Frequently, mimetically produced sounds are also accompanied by exclamation marks.

 

How do I handle book titles in my work? Do I underline them? Italicize them? Put them in quotes? —Bryan F.

This is one of those pesky questions that comes up all the time: Should I underline or italicize book titles in my writing? And it comes up for good reason: You can look at several different books, newspapers or magazine articles and see it handled several different ways. So which one is right?

The answer is: Probably all of them.

How you handle book titles in your work is a style choice not governed by grammarian law. The issue is addressed by the top stylebooks, but the answers vary.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style and the Modern Language Association, titles of books (and other complete works, such as newspapers and magazines), should be italicized. So if abiding by either of those guides, you’d italicize Stephen King’s The Shining, just as you would Vanity Fair and The Miami Herald (and Appetite for Destruction, if your protagonist is a Guns N’ Roses fan).

On the flip side, the AP Stylebook suggests that you use quotation marks around the names of books (with the exceptions of the Bible and catalogs of reference material, such as dictionaries and almanacs, which should not be styled in any way). So if you’re writing for a publication that adheres to AP guidelines, reference books with friendly quotation marks: “Eat, Pray, Love,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” and “Bossypants” (have I ever mentioned how much I love Tina Fey?).


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Some publications also follow their own style guides. Here at WD, for instance, we generally follow the AP Stylebook. But, as you can see if you peruse this issue, we break from it on this topic and italicize book titles. That’s our preferred house style.

So what does this mean for you? It means: Don’t worry about it too much. Just pick one way and stick with it for consistency purposes (for example, if you italicize the name of the book your character is reading on page one of your novel, make sure you italicize it on page 214, too). All publishers have their own style, so if you’re fortunate enough to get the work in question published, an editor will edit your story to fit her style preferences anyway. Your goal is to turn in a professional-looking manuscript, and consistency in your style is one key way to do that.


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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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