There are several reasons why many writers are confused about when a title should be quoted, italicized, or underlined. One reason is generational, meaning that some writers who are younger are at a disadvantage – or my advanced age provides me with an advantage. What you might not know is that two of those three options are the same thing. No, of course that doesn’t make sense, not yet. Have a seat, and let’s do some learnin’.
Two notes: First, I’m going to use boldface in conjunction with italics because text appears then when italicized. The boldface is only to help it stand out. Second, I hope this is information you already know and don’t need to hear from me. However, based on much of what I read, well, some of you need to learn this.
Step 1 – stop underlining
Unless you’re an older and hopefully wiser person, like me, you probably have no idea why you will occasionally see titles underlined. You youngsters have probably never typed on anything other than a computer and using a word processor, and I’m very happy for you. I’m so happy you never had to slug away at a manual or electric typewriter or figure out how to squeeze a few missing letters into a word in the middle of a line. I’m just thrilled that you never had to erase typed characters or use that white-out tape to cover up mistakes. Isn’t life wonderful for you? It’s like rainbows and unicorns bringing you balloons and cookies.
What you also didn’t learn was that those typewriters didn’t have italics, but they did have underlining. That’s what we used instead of italics, and that’s why you should never underline a title – because now everything has italics. Except Facebook. Eventually, some electric typewriters had italics, but they were the more expensive machines used in business settings and not usually what anyone had at home. So let’s be clear – no more underlining the titles of anything.
Step 2 – size matters!
To start simply, it goes like this: big things get italics, and small things get quotes. However, what qualifies as big or small? That’s easy. Usually.
Jaws, Pulp Fiction, Toy Story,
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