Q:

How do you properly punctuate the title of a book?

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Quick Answer

For proper punctuation, "The Chicago Manual of Style" and the Modern Language Association direct writers to set the title of a book in italics. This rule applies to book titles within essays or lists of works cited. About.com recommends using what it calls the "big and little trick" to remember how to punctuate titles: big things that can stand on their own are italicized, while smaller things, or parts of larger things, are set in quotation marks.

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Full Answer

In the case of book title punctuation, the title of the book would represent the big thing, while a chapter of that book is a smaller part of the whole and should be placed in quotation marks. Format particular book titles, such as the Bible and the Koran, in regular type, as they are major religious works. Titles of government documents and works of antiquity should also be set in regular type. Some publications, such as the New York Times, use individualized style guidelines. Research style guideline requirements to confirm the appropriate punctuation for book titles.

About.com provides lists of media and texts with information on how to punctuate each; these include book titles, poems and short stories. ThePunctuationGuide.com offers a chart to help writers discern correct punctuation for titles and other formats. The chart features three punctuation formats: italics, quotation marks and regular type. It lists books, blogs and comic strips in the italics column.

AP style does not use italics for titles because italics cannot be sent through the AP computer network. Users of AP style should put quotation marks around the title. Book titles were once commonly underlined, according to GrammarBook.com. However, with the advent of personal computers and computer printing, the style changed to italics. Writers should periodically check MLA or Chicago guidelines for style changes.

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