Editor’s Perspective: The Right Way to Treat Titles

Book TitlesRecently, a client asked for my advice on how to treat book, journal, and article titles in her organization’s communications materials. The question came after some debate within her organization on whether certain titles should be in quotation marks or italicized, and how that formatting would reflect on the organization’s competence and brand.

So what is the right away to format book titles? Well, a post from Writer’s Digest (yes, I did just put that magazine title in italics), has the right answer: it’s up to you, but you (and others at your organization) need to stick with whatever format you choose.

For example, the AP Stylebook encourages using quotation marks for book titles. The Chicago Manual of Style recommends italicizing titles of books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, plays, movies, and TV programs. It also suggests using quotation marks around titles of articles, poems, songs, and TV episodes.

In my experience working with magazine and book publishing companies and university communication and marketing offices, most organizations use the Chicago Manual of Style way for titles, even if they normally adhere to AP style. In fact, all five universities featured in my recent post on editorial style guide examples follow this approach.

It’s okay to have exceptions like these in your editorial style guide. That’s why it’s important to have an editorial style guide specifically tailored for your university or company and the unique editorial situations you encounter.

Overall, what matters more than being right is consistently using the same style (and exceptions) in all of your external and internal communication pieces (website, magazine, brochures, e-mail blasts, etc.). And, if the exceptions are in a written style guide, it helps to have that guide to show anyone who questions your editorial style decisions.

About Dana’s Creative Services

Dana’s Creative Services is a writing and editing services company that helps businesses communicate better with their target audiences. Dana McCullough, owner of Dana’s Creative Services, writes and edits copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, and books. Her clients include universities, nonprofit organizations, magazine publishers, and book publishers nationwide. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and frequently writes and edits copy on higher education, genealogy/family history, health, and business topics.