How To Use Titles Of Books In Essays

The basic format for an in-text citation is: (Author Last Name, year).

 

Examples

One author: Where the Wild Things Are (Sendak, 1963) is a depiction of a child coping with his anger towards his mom.

Two authors (cite both names every time): Brabant and Mooney (1986) have used the comic strip to examine evidence of sex role stereotyping. OR The comic strip has been used to examine evidence of sex role stereotyping (Brabant & Mooney, 1986).

No author: Cite the first few words of the reference entry (usually the title) and the year. Use double quotation marks around the title of an article or chapter, and italicize the title of a periodical, book, brochure, or report. Examples: From the book Study Guide (2000) ... or ("Reading," 1999).

Note: Titles of periodicals, books, brochures, or reports should be in italics and use normal title capitalization rules.

If you are citing multiple sources by multiple authors in-text, you can list all of them by the author's last name and year of publication within the same set of parentheses, separated by semicolons.

Example: (Adams, 1999; Jones & James, 2000; Miller, 1999)

For more information on how to cite books in-text and as a reference entry, see the APA Manual Section 6.11 to 6.16 on pages 174-178, and Table 6.1 on page 177).

How do I handle book titles in my work? Do I underline them? Italicize them? Put them in quotes? —Bryan F.

This is one of those pesky questions that comes up all the time: Should I underline or italicize book titles in my writing? And it comes up for good reason: You can look at several different books, newspapers or magazine articles and see it handled several different ways. So which one is right?

The answer is: Probably all of them.

How you handle book titles in your work is a style choice not governed by grammarian law. The issue is addressed by the top stylebooks, but the answers vary.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style and the Modern Language Association, titles of books (and other complete works, such as newspapers and magazines), should be italicized. So if abiding by either of those guides, you’d italicize Stephen King’s The Shining, just as you would Vanity Fair and The Miami Herald (and Appetite for Destruction, if your protagonist is a Guns N’ Roses fan).

On the flip side, the AP Stylebook suggests that you use quotation marks around the names of books (with the exceptions of the Bible and catalogs of reference material, such as dictionaries and almanacs, which should not be styled in any way). So if you’re writing for a publication that adheres to AP guidelines, reference books with friendly quotation marks: “Eat, Pray, Love,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” and “Bossypants” (have I ever mentioned how much I love Tina Fey?).


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Some publications also follow their own style guides. Here at WD, for instance, we generally follow the AP Stylebook. But, as you can see if you peruse this issue, we break from it on this topic and italicize book titles. That’s our preferred house style.

So what does this mean for you? It means: Don’t worry about it too much. Just pick one way and stick with it for consistency purposes (for example, if you italicize the name of the book your character is reading on page one of your novel, make sure you italicize it on page 214, too). All publishers have their own style, so if you’re fortunate enough to get the work in question published, an editor will edit your story to fit her style preferences anyway. Your goal is to turn in a professional-looking manuscript, and consistency in your style is one key way to do that.


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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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