Title Rules and How to Write Them

Contributor: Allison Crews. Lesson ID: 13565

Writing title names can be so confusing. When do you use quotation marks, and when do you italicize? Just what gets capitalized? This lesson will help you become a pro at writing titles.


Grammar, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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It's hard to know when to italicize or underline titles, let alone what to capitalize. It seems like there are so many rules!

While it can be a little tricky to get the hang of formatting titles, it's not as complicated as it may seem. This lesson will help you master title formats.

lets go

The first set of guidelines you'll practice with titles in this lesson is capitalization.

  • Which words are capitalized, and which aren't?

Well...it isn't cut and dried.

overwhelmed thinking

This is because there are different style guides that set the rules for writing in different places. In high school and college, a professor will require you to format essays according to a certain style guide, often MLA or Chicago Style.

MLA stands for Modern Language Association. MLA style is generally used in scholarly writing, whereas the Chicago Style Guide is primarily used in publishing.

Journalism also has its own set of rules, known as the AP Stylebook. AP stands for Associated Press.

The history of these style guides isn't as important to know as that there is more than one set of rules, and those rules apply under different circumstances.

lightbulb moment

When you are required to use a certain style guide, that information will be communicated to you. You don't need to worry about trying to memorize all the different rules for every situation.

Additionally, there are many great resources available to help you, like university writing labs, that often make tutorials available online.

Check out Capitalization Rules: Capitalization of a Title, from Union Test Prep, to learn what all three style guides agree on regarding titles. Knowing the three rules in this video will ensure you're on the right track.

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Now, try out a couple examples to see if you've got the hang of it.

  • How would you capitalize this title:

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"On" and "Waterfront" are capitalized because they are the first and last words in the title even though "On" is a short preposition. "The" is not capitalized because it is an article, so it should be left lowercase.

  • How would you capitalize this title:

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"The" and "Lane" are the first and last words of the title. "Ocean" and "End" are nouns, so they are capitalized. "At," "the," "of," and "the" are all short prepositions or articles, so they remain lowercase.

If you're feeling more confident about these capitalization guidelines, you're ready to learn more about formatting in the Got It? section.

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