How to Handle Book Titles

BooksDo you struggle with this? I know I do—all the time. Should I underline the book title? Italicize it? Put it in quotes? I’ve seen it every which way but which one is correct?

Believe it or not—all of them.

The way you handle book titles in your writing isn’t based on any grammar rule. It’s actually a style choice. While this topic has been addressed in all the major stylebooks, unfortunately, no two answers are the same.

The Chicago Manual of Style and the Modern Language Association claim book titles (and other complete works like magazines and newspapers) should be italicized. So if you’re following their guidelines, you’d italicize Stephen King’s Carrie, Esquire and the New York Times.

On the other hand, the AP Stylebook recommends putting quotation marks around the names of books. There are some exceptions. The Bible and catalogs of reference materials, like dictionaries and almanacs, shouldn’t be styled in any way.

To confuse things more, the MLA Handbook for Writers believes all works published independently, such as books, periodicals, magazines, newspapers and journals, should be underlined.

So what does all this mean for the writer?

Don’t fret over it too much. Pick one way and be consistent throughout your work.

Problem solved.

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