Quotation Marks with Titles

Some titles of literary works are italicized (in typescript, underlined), others are placed in quote marks. The basic consideration is whether the work was published or presented separately or rather as part of something larger (for example, a magazine or collection). In the first case the title is italicized; in the second, set within quotes. In practical terms, this means that the titles of books, plays, and long poems, such as the are italicized, while the titles of short stories, short poems, essays, articles in magazines or other periodicals, and the titles of chapters or sections within a book are quoted:

Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms has been made into a movie.

A Winter's Tale is one of Shakespeare's so-called problem comedies.

"A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner is a shocking short story. In Vanity Fair Thackeray calls one chapter "How to Live on Nothing a Year."

The finest carpe diem poem in English is Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress."

The titles of movies are italicized, those of television and radio shows are quoted:

Robin and Marian is an unusual and interesting film treatment of the Robin Hood story.

"Truth or Consequences" was popular both on radio and on television.

Notice that the first word of a title is always capitalized. So are the last word and all intervening words except articles (a, an, the), short prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions.

t> Quotation Marks to Signify Special Meaning

Limited or Technical Meaning

Sometimes a common word must be used in a special sense that applies only within a limited context. To make the limitation clear, it helps to put the word in quotes:

Some years later Eton became the first public school—"public" in the sense that students were accepted from everywhere, not merely from the neighborhood. Morris Bishop


Irony is using a word in a sense very different from—often opposite to—its conventional meaning. Effective irony depends on the reader's recognizing the writer's intent. Intention should be clear from the context. Even so, a signal is sometimes advisable. In speech this is given by intonation, as when we speak the word brave in a scornful way to mean "cowardly." In writing, the signal may be supplied by quotation marks:

The Indians were therefore pushed back behind ever-retreating frontiers. "Permanent" boundaries were established between the United States and the Indians, tribes were moved out of the United States and established beyond those boundaries. Again and again the boundaries were violated by the whites.

James Oliver Robertson

Citation Terms

A citation term is a word used to refer to itself rather than to the object or concept or feeling it conventionally designates. Usually such terms are italicized, but sometimes they are quoted. (They should never be treated both ways.) The following pair of sentences illustrate the difference between the same word used first in its conventional sense and second as a citation term:

A horse grazed in the meadow. "Horse" is a citation term.


When a word is defined, its meaning is sometimes put in quotes, the word itself being italicized:

Other-directed means "accepting and living by the standards of the social group to which one belongs or aspires."

Slang and Colloquialisms

It is not necessary to place quotation marks around slang or colloquial expressions, apologizing for them, so to speak. If the term says exactly what you want to say, no apology is needed; if it does not, no apology will help.

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