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Proper Punctuation – Titles

What is the proper punctuation to use for titles? Unfortunately, it isn’t a simple answer. There are different options, so you should first check to see if a certain format is required. Here are some common ways that titles are punctuated.

  • Capitalization of titles of works (books, articles, plays, stories, poems, movies, etc.)
    • Use all capital letters. THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING BRIEFCASE. . . OR
    • Capitalize the first word and all the main words. Do not capitalize articles (like a, an, the) or conjunctions and prepositions if they are less than four letters. However, you should capitalize them if they are the first or last words in the title.
      • The Mystery of the Missing Briefcase
      • A Day in the Life of Dogs
  • Italicize titles of works (books, magazines, newspapers, movies, plays, and CDs).
    • The Mystery of the Missing Briefcase
  • Use quotation marks for shorter works (book chapters, articles, poems, and songs).
    • "Mary Had a Little Lamb"

Sometimes you will find yourself stuck and you don’t know what punctuation you should use. You might not know what letters to capitalize or whether to use italics or quotation marks. There are many resources available, so you should always be sure to check. Do a search online for the specific thing you’re looking for. Type in, "punctuation for book titles," or "italicize movie titles?" Grammar and style guides are also extremely helpful. It’s a good idea to have one near you when you write, especially if you plan on doing a lot of writing.

Time4Writing provides practice in this area. Sign up for our Middle School Basic Mechanics course or browse other related courses below to find a course that’s right for you.