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Uhh… Help please! Which do I use?

Italics vs. “Quotations” for Titles

Do you sometimes struggle with choosing the right thing? It is very common
to use something incorrectly, especially in the English language. Many formal
writing assignments are often cluttered with incorrectly used grammar and
mechanics. This handout serves to introduce the concept of Italics or
“Quotations” and when to use properly utilize them.

Deciding whether to use Italics or “Quotations” for titles is one of the

biggest problems for student writers (and even professionals). One most
likely is unsure of which one to use because he or she was never
appropriately taught the material (or maybe he or she has forgotten).

Let’s look at an example. Which sentence below contains the correct usage?

1. Last year in Mr. Johnson’s class, we read The Cay.

2. Last year in Mr. Johnson’s class, we read “The Cay.”
 If you chose sentence number 1, you are correct. We ALWAYS
italicize a major work of literature (a book, play, etc.)

What in the heck does Italics (Italicize) mean?

• For the purpose of this handout, I will italicize and CAPITALIZE
everything that has to do with the subject. NOTE: Please do not
italicize things like this. I am italicizing things to provide emphasis.
• The word italics is a funny one. Think of the country Italy when you
are trying to pronounce it. iˈtalik
• When one italicizes (the verb form of italics) text, he or she is trying
to emphasize something major. According to the New Oxford
American Dictionary, the actual definition (denotation) of the word is
”…the sloping kind of typeface used especially for emphasis or
distinction and in foreign words.”

When would I use Italics?

• NOTE: Italicizing and Underlining essentially mean the SAME thing.
The difference is, however, that you use Italics for a formally TYPED
paper and you use Underlines for a HANDWRITTEN paper.
• You would need to utilize Italics to denote a major work of literature.
Remember the definition? If you italicize something you are putting
emphasis on it - you want it to stand out from the rest of the text.
• Use italics (or underlines) for each of the following:
 A book: Heart of Darkness
 A newspaper: The Tampa Tribune
 A magazine: National Geographic
 A play: Hamlet
 A film (movie): Titanic
 A TV show Family Guy
 A work of art: Starry Night
 A musical work: New World Symphony
• One rule of thumb that you NEED to keep in mind:
 Italics are for something LONG!
• Let’s look at some examples used in sentences.
 Do you read The Tampa Tribune every day?
 The drama club is puttin on Our Town this spring.
 Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, is highly regarded.

Ok... Italics. Now what?

• Now we will talk about “Quotation Marks” and when to use them!
• According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, “Quotation
Marks” are “used either to mark the beginning and end of a title or
quoted passage or to indicate that a word or phrase is regarded as
slang or jargon or is being discussed rather than used within the
• You will ALWAYS need to use “Quotation Marks” for shorter works of
 A short story: “The Jacket”
 A poem: “The Raven”
 A song: “We Are the World”
 An article: “Canine Capers”
 A chapter in a book: “The Ghoul in Pajamas” (Harry Potter)
 A TV episode: “Possum” (Five Mile Creek)
• Here are some examples:
 Do you know the song “America the Beautiful?”
 O. Henry’s story, “The Gift of the Magi,” is very popular.
 Have you read the weird poem, “Jabberwocky”?