How to Handle Titles
The rules below have been around for a very long time. My copy of A Preface to College Prose, copyright 1935, does titles this way, so even if your high school English teacher wasn't aware of standard practice, it's been around for at least 83 years. This isn't new stuff, even if most college freshmen have never heard of it.
- No matter what the book designer did on the cover, we capitalize the first letter of the first word, first letter of the last word, and first letter of all the important words in the middle: Reading and Writing in the Academic Community.
- Book-length and "container" titles are italicized. (We used to underline them on the old mechanical typewriters because those machines did not have italics.)
- The New York Times
- The Longman Reader
- Pieces that are not book-length get quotation marks around their titles. Note that these are not actually quotations and are not usually introduced with a speaking verb such as said, so there is normally no comma before the title. Follow the same capitalization rules that you use for books.
- We read "Fighting That Old Devil Rumor" by Sandra Salmons.
- Do not use more than one indicator of a title; don't just throw everything in, hoping that one will be right. You don't want to write like this:
- The class read "Ulysses".
Something we do not do
Even if the book designer put the title in all capitals, we do not ever use it that way. Do not write:
- GOOD REASONS with CONTEMPORARY ARGUMENTS
(By the way, the same goes for book designers who put the whole thing in lower case or mix things up in a stylish manner!)
The Bibliographic Page Trap
- Realize that MLA and APA are not the same thing! Most grammar handbooks have sections for APA, MLA and Chicago formats. Make sure you land in the right one when you open the book.
- One of the chief differences is the way they handle their bibliographic pages, and capitalization is a major issue.
- Look at the way the grammar handbook sets up that last page. Do not assume you can simply invent a format. (You are almost certain to guess wrong.)
- Noodletools gives major help for capitalization. (Watch the little help boxes.)