Sunday, 15 January 2017

More Tips on Titles

In case you didn’t get enough in How to Capitalize Titles, here are a few more rules for writing titles of works.

Tom Selleck in all his Hawaiian-shirted, hairy-chested glory
I think the Magnum, P.I. episodes we watched were “Call Off Your Dobermans, Higgins,” “Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?,” and “Never Too Much Chest Hair.”

Titles and Punctuation


When a title includes punctuation, like the Beatles’ Help!, treat it as part of the title and punctuate your sentence normally. However, if a title ending in an exclamation point or question mark is also the last word in the sentence, don’t put a period after it.

  • Jerome lovingly cued up his vinyl EP Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! 
  • It’s like she got her relationship goals from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • I think the Magnum, P.I. episodes we watched were “Call Off Your Dobermans, Higgins,” “Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?,” and “Never Too Much Chest Hair.”

Initial Articles


The opening article of a title (i.e., A, An, or The) can be dropped to make the title fit better into the surrounding sentence.

  • All I can tell you about Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov is that it makes an excellent doorstop.
  • Did you ever see that Cosby Show episode where Theo gets his ear pierced?

For the titles of newspapers and magazines, leave the initial article lowercase and in roman (i.e., not italic) font.

  • Kamilah and Brad’s narrow escape was reported in the New York Times.
  • The Guardian chose not to print Randolph’s letter of outrage, but the Daily Mail was less discriminating.

Note that none of this applies to titles in foreign languages.

  • Fei flipped through Der Spiegel while breakfasting on toast and Nutella.
  • Upon its publication in 1857, Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal was declared “an insult to public decency.”

Cover of pulp sci-fi magazine Planet Stories
Kamilah and Brad’s narrow escape was reported in the New York Times.

Mistakes to Watch Out For


Before you capitalize and italicize magazine, make sure it’s actually part of the publication’s title.

  • Gorbachev was Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1988.
  • Most of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories were originally published in the Strand Magazine

When a publication’s title is part of a prize name, don’t italicize the title.

  • The Los Angeles Times Book Prize
  • The Ankh-Morpork Times Award for Most Humorously Shaped Vegetable

You can find more on punctuating titles—and more dated TV show references—in Quotation Marks, Parts One and Two.

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