In this lesson, you will gain clarification on when to underline the titles of books. You will also learn when to italicize books’ titles. This lesson will explain the most common contexts for writing book titles.
Book Titles in Writing
Many of us come into contact with books on a daily basis. Sometimes we are using them for school work, reading them for enjoyment, or referring to them as a quick reference. But what about when we are writing about a book?
Books on a shelf
There are certain rules to follow when deciding what we should do to ensure that we are using a book’s title correctly. The book title is the name of the book, which is found on the front cover and the side of most books. Some people believe that book titles should be underlined, while others think that they should be written in italics.
Actually, it all depends on the writing tools that are being used to communicate information. The writing tools refer to whether we are using a word processor or writing with a utensil in our own hand, like an ink pen.
Underlining Titles of Books
In many classrooms, written communication takes place using the traditional method of pen or pencil on paper. We must underline the titles of books when writing this way. Underlining clearly shows that special attention should be given to the underlined information (in this case the book title). Underlining titles of books is not used nearly as often as italics. However, when handwriting information, we do not have the benefit of keyboard shortcuts and enhancements.
Hand and pencil
Writing Titles in Italics
Another common way that people write is on a computer, which allows them the choice of using different keyboard options. When writing using a computer, we should type the title of the book in italics. This is the most accepted and common practice for writing titles of books.
The italics option is usually found within text programs like Microsoft Word and Google Docs. The italics mark is a slanted capital letter I at the top of the open document. This allows the lettering to slant slightly to the side. Using italics sets the title of the book apart from other words in the written text.
Book Titles Used in Different Contexts
When students are writing essays, short answer responses, or sentences in general, they should italicize a book’s title when they reference it. This is shown in the examples below for clarification.
Example 1– I had to read The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a leader for my leadership class.
Example 2– Starla found useful tips in Who Moved My Cheese.
Example 3– Our summer reading list included To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman.
Another context in which book titles are used would be for a works-cited page. This is also called a ‘bibliography’. A bibliography is a list of referenced materials that have been used within works, such as research papers. When writers are referring to a book’s title for a bibliography, they should write the title in italics. A few examples of what this should look like are shown below.
Example 1– Merriam, S. & Brockett, R. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education: An introduction. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Example 2– DuFour, R. & Eaker, R. (1998). Professional learning communities at work: Best practices for enhancing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Example 3– Huffman, J. B., & Hipp, K. K. (2003). Reculturing schools as professional learning communities. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Education.
When referring to a book title in writing, deciding whether to underline or italicize the title can be confusing. At a time when technology is so popular, we most often use computers and other electronic devices for writing. When this is the case, we must remember to write a book’s title in italics. If we are taking notes or completing an assignment the traditional way, using pen and paper, then we should underline a book title. We most often reference books in sentences and bibliographies. When using a computer, we should always write a book’s title in italics.