Titles in essays and term papers

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1. Publications of book length such as text books or novels should normally be presented by giving their titles in italics. [In hand-written essays, this will be denoted by underlining].

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights
R.G. Lipman’s Positive Ergonomics

2. When using a word-processor you should use italics for titles (with bold reserved for special emphasis). Remember to be consistent throughout your document, and do not combine any of these attributes.

3. You should not combine underlining or italics with quotation marks.

4. The titles of short stories and songs are indicated by single quote marks:

Katherine Mansfield’s short story ‘The Voyage’
Kurt Weil’s show tune ‘September Song’

5. Thus, James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ is a celebrated short story, but his long novel Ulysses is even more famous.

6. When offering book titles in references and endnotes the sequence of information given is as follows:


Valerie Shaw, The Short Story, Longman, 1983, p.56.

If you are using the Harvard system of referencing, remember to put the date of publication after the author’s name.

7. The titles of individual poems are indicated by using roman type and single quote marks, thus:

W.H.Auden’s ‘Night Mail’
Browning’s ‘Pippa Passes’

8. Where a long poem has been published on its own, it may be indicated as a book, thus:

T.S.Eliot’s The Waste Land
Milton’s Paradise Lost

9. Where a number of poems has been collected as a group, they are treated as a book, as follows:

‘Tess’s Lament’ is one of the poems in Thomas Hardy’s 1903 collection, Poems of the Past and the Present.

10. You should always make a clear distinction between fictional characters and books which are named after them. David Copperfield is a fictional character, whereas David Copperfield is the novel which bears his name. The same is true of Middlemarch (the fictional town) and Middlemarch (the novel).

11. Plays are indicated in the same way as novels, because they are usually published in single volume form.

Oscar Wilde’s play, Lady Windermere’s Fan
Shakespeare’s The Tempest

12. Magazines, newspapers, and journals are indicated in the same way as books:

The Economist     The Daily Telegraph
Architectural Review     English Studies

13. Individual articles from within these separate publications are indicated by single quotation marks and roman type, as follows:

A.B. Smith’s review article ‘Foreign Practices’ in The Observer business section of 27 October 1991.

14. The titles of films, radio and television programmes are also indicated by italics:

Double Indemnity     Round the Horne
Newsnight     World in Action

15. This convention also applies to the names of famous operas, ballets, paintings and sculptures:

The Magic Flute     Swan Lake
The Night Watch     David

16. When the title of a work includes mention of another book title, the second title should be placed in single quotation marks:

A.B. Smith, The Textual Development of ‘King Lear’, New York: Scholarship Press, 1986.

17. Notice that capital letters are used in the first word and any other important words of titles. Less important words such as ‘and’, ‘of’, and ‘in’ are not capitalised:

The Power and the Glory
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

18. The titles of works which are stored in electronic form will follow similar conventions, but are described separately.

19. Sometimes in documents stored as web pages, bold is used instead of italics because it shows up better on screen.

20. Whichever conventions you use, you should be consistent throughout your document.

© Roy Johnson 2003

Writing skills links

Titles Tutorials, guides, and books, on writing skills

Red button Writing skills – a bibliography

Red button Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook

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