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Using Old References In Essays Do You Italize

 by Chelsea Lee

APA Style has special formatting rules for the titles of the sources you use in your paper, such as the titles of books, articles, book chapters, reports, and webpages. The different formats that might be applied are capitalization (see Publication Manual, section 4.15), italics (see section 4.21), and quotation marks (see section 4.07), and they are used in different combinations for different kinds of sources in different contexts.

The formatting of the titles of sources you use in your paper depends on two factors: (a) the independence of the source (stands alone vs. part of a greater whole) and (b) the location of the title (in the text of the paper vs. in the reference list entry). The table below provides formatting directions and examples:

Independence of source

Text

Reference list

Treatment

Example

Treatment

Example

Stands alone

(e.g., book, e-book, report [technical, government, etc.], dissertation, thesis, film, video, television series, podcast, YouTube video, artwork, map, music album, unpublished manuscript)

Italic, title case

Gone With the Wind

Italic, sentence case

Gone with the wind

Part of a greater whole

(e.g., journal article, book chapter, e-book chapter, newspaper article, magazine article, blog post, television episode, webisode, webpage, tweet, Facebook update, encyclopedia entry, Wikipedia entry, dictionary entry, song)

Inside double quotation marks, title case

“Longitudinal Impact of Parental and Adolescent Personality on Parenting”

Not inside any quotation marks, sentence case

Longitudinal impact of parental and adolescent personality on parenting


More on Italics Versus Nonitalics

As you can see in the table above, the titles of works that stand alone (such as a book or a report) are italicized in both the text and the reference list. In contrast, the titles of works that are part of a greater whole (such as an article, which is part of a journal, or a book chapter, which is part of a book) are not italicized in either place, and only in the text are they put inside quotation marks. If you are having difficulty determining whether something stands alone (such as a webpage that may or may not be part of a greater website), choose not to italicize.

More on Capitalization: Title Case Versus Sentence Case

APA Style uses two kinds of capitalization to format reference titles, which are also mentioned in the table above: title case and sentence case. APA’s title case refers to a capitalization style in which most words are capitalized, and sentence case refers to a capitalization style in which most words are lowercased. In both cases, proper nouns and certain other types of words are always capitalized. Here are more detailed directions for implementing title case and sentence case.


Text Examples

As shown in the table above, title case is used for the titles of references when they appear in the text of an APA Style paper. Here are some examples of titles written in title case (of an article and a book, respectively), as they might appear in a sentence in the text of a paper:

The article “Psychological Distress, Acculturation, and Mental Health-Seeking Attitudes Among People of African Descent in the United States: A Preliminary Investigation” (Obasi & Leong, 2009) makes an important contribution to the mental health and acculturation literature. 
Students read stories of visual agnosia in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (Sacks, 1985). 


Reference List Entry Examples

In contrast, sentence case is used for titles of references when they appear in reference list entries. See how the book and article titles look when capitalized in sentence case in these example reference list entries:

Obasi, E. M., & Leong, F. T. L. (2009). Psychological distress, acculturation, and mental health-seeking attitudes among people of African descent in the United States: A preliminary investigation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56, 227–238. doi:10.1037/a0014865
Sacks, O. (1985). The man who mistook his wife for a hat and other clinical tales. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

We hope this helps you understand how to capitalize and format reference titles in APA Style. 

More Posts on Capitalization

Italics, quotation marks, underlines, plain old capital letters—when it comes to writing titles, the rules can feel like a confusing mess. Do you italicize book titles? What about movie titles? And for goodness’ sake, what should you do with pesky things like TV shows, short stories, or Youtube videos?

With so many different kinds of media, it’s easy to get lost in all the rules. Let’s demystify them, shall we?

One Rule of Writing Titles

There are two ways we typically indicate titles: by italicizing them, or by putting them in “quotation marks.” We’ll get into the nuances of each in a moment. But let’s start off with one core principle:

Italicize titles of large works (books, movies). Put titles of smaller works (poems, articles) in quotation marks.

For some kinds of media, like book titles, the rules are clear. For others, like Youtube videos, they’re a little fuzzier.

Whatever kind of media you’re working with, examine it through this principle: italics for large works; quotation marks for small works.

This principle will help you navigate those areas of uncertainty like a pro.

When to Use Italics

Italicize the titles of large works. What are large works? I’m glad you asked.

A large work might be:

  • A book, like Gone With the Wind
  • A movie, like The Dark Knight
  • An anthology, like The Norton Anthology of English Literature
  • A TV show, like Friends
  • A magazine, like The New Yorker
  • A newspaper, like The New York Times
  • An album, like Abbey Road

This principle holds true for newer forms of media, too, like:

  • A vlog, like Vlogbrothers
  • A podcast, like This American Life

When to Use Quotation Marks

What do anthologies, TV shows, magazines, newspapers, vlogs, and podcasts all have in common? They’re all comprised of many smaller parts.

When you’re writing the title of a smaller work, put it in quotation marks. A small work might be:

  • A short story, like “The Lottery”
  • A poem, like “The Road Not Taken”
  • An episode of a TV show, like “The One With the Monkey”
  • An article in a magazine or newspaper, like “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books”
  • A song, like “Here Comes the Sun”
  • An episode of a vlog, like “Men Running on Tanks and the Truth About Book Editors”
  • An episode of a podcast, like “Just What I Wanted”

Other Ways to Indicate Titles

We haven’t always used italics to indicate titles. Before word processing developed italics that were easy to type and easy to read, the titles of larger works were underlined. Since handwriting italics is difficult, underlining the titles of larger works is still an acceptable notation in handwritten documents.

And as our means of communication have continued to evolve, so have our ways of indicating titles. If you’re writing a post on Facebook, for instance, there’s no option to italicize or underline. In situations where neither is an option, many people use ALL CAPS to indicate titles of larger works.

Be Clear and Consistent

Here’s the secret: in the end, all these rules are arbitrary anyway, and different style guides have developed their own nuances for what should and shouldn’t be italicized or put in quotation marks. If you’re writing something formal, remember to double-check your style guide to make sure you’re following their guidelines.

Remember, though, that ultimately, the only purpose for these rules is to help the reader understand what the writer is trying to communicate. Do you italicize book titles? Whatever you’re writing, whether it’s a dissertation or a tweet, be clear and consistent in the way you indicate titles.

If you hold to that rule, no one will be confused.

Are there any kinds of titles you’re not sure how to write? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Your prompt: two friends are discussing their favorite media—books, podcasts, TV shows, etc. Write their conversation using as many titles as you can (and indicating them correctly!).

Pro tip: to italicize a title in the comments, surround the text with the HTML tags <em></em>.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you’re done, share your practice in the comments below, and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!

Alice Sudlow

Alice Sudlow has a keen eye for comma splices, misplaced hyphens, and well-turned sentences, which she puts to good use as the content editor of The Write Practice and Short Fiction Break literary magazine. She loves to help writers hone their craft and take their writing from good to excellent.

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