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Cliches To Avoid In Essays Do You Underline

To italicize or underline. That is the question. How do you handle the titles of magazines, books, newspapers, academic journals, films, television shows, long poems, plays, operas, works of art like paintings and sculptures, music albums, etc.?

Today’s Standards

Nowadays, more people use italics to designate titles, like our new e-book The Novel-Writing Training Plan: 17 Steps to Get Your Ideas in Shape for the Marathon of Writing. This helps distinguish titles of works from websites or links in your content, like ProWritingAid.com. Imagine if you underlined everything, your readers wouldn’t know what is a link and what is the title of a work.

Historically Speaking

Historically writers used underlines to specify titles. Before computers and keyboards, we had to hand-write (gasp!) our work or type it on a typewriter. Either way, italics wasn’t an option. You had to underline if you wanted to designate something.

With the advent of the internet, it became custom to use an underline to indicate a link rather than a title. Imagine if you underlined both online, your readers wouldn’t know what was clickable and what wasn’t.

In printed work, however, computers give us several options for punctuating and formatting our work, but there is still no firm and fast rule because different style guides handle titles and names of works differently.

Stick to Your Style Guide

The Chicago Manual of Style advises that titles of book, magazines, newspapers, works of art, long poem, and other complete works should be italicized.

Check out the Chicago Manual of Style website

The AP Stylebook, on the other hand, states otherwise.

Check out the AP Stylebook

So what is a writer to do?

If you’re submitting your work to an editor, he or she will usually edit your manuscript in the style they lean towards. If you’re submitting to a publisher, it’s best to learn their style first and format your manuscript according to their style guide.

Whichever route you choose, be consistent with it. If you start Chapter 1 by italicizing the names of books and music albums, you should still be italicizing works of art and the names of television shows in Chapter 20.

Same thing if you start off with underlining—stick with it.

Exceptions to Every Rule

Just because the English language isn’t confusing enough, there is an exception to both italics and underlining.

Long sacred works like the Bible or the Koran are never underlined or italicized.

Love grammar? Check out our Grammar Rules posts and these great articles from our archive:


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UNDERLINE (X) AND ITALICS (X)

Drawing a line under a word or phrase indicates the language has been singled out for a specific reason. Do not underline for emphasis; instead, choose strong words. When you underline, draw one continuous line with no spaces between words. Do not underline punctuation marks, except in abbreviations. Placing a word in italics is equivalent to underlining it.

RULE #1:

Underline or place in italics the titles of books, magazines, journals, newspapers, and pamphlets. EXCEPTIONS: The Bible, the Koran, legal documents, and their parts are generally not underlined.

Examples of Rule #1:
Did you read John Grisham's The Rainmaker?
Did you read John Grisham's The Rainmaker?

RULE #2:

Underline or place in italics the titles of movies, videos, plays, television and radio programs, operas, long poems, long musical works, works of art, and published speeches.

Examples of Rule #2:
Saving Private Ryan was a popular 1998 movie.
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is one of the most moving speeches of all time.
The Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre in Paris.

RULE #3:

Underline or place in italics the names of ships, trains, aircraft, and spacecraft.

Examples of Rule #3:
The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise is one of the largest ships afloat.

RULE #4:

Underline or place in italics scientific names, foreign words and phrases, and the names of legal cases. The –v in legal cases (Latin for versus or against), though, appears in regular font style in a legal citation.

Examples of Rule #4:
canis lupus (gray wolf)
Semper fidelis
Robertson v. Dallas

RULE #5:

Underline or place in italics words being defined or words, letters, or numbers being named as words or used as examples.

Examples of Rule #5:
The letters ch can be pronounced like sh, as in the word chic.

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