I love music. I’ve been teaching myself to play guitar, and I can stumble my way through four or five songs without wanting to poke holes in my eardrums, but my main appreciation for music is when other people play it. I’m an avid Spotify user, and I take a lot of pride in my ability to make kickass playlists. One of my girlfriends has even given me the green light to create her hypothetical wedding reception playlist.
So obviously, when I write about a song or album, I know when to use quotation marks and when to use italics. Let’s discuss.
Photo by Jo.Anne11
Here’s how it works:
Song Titles in “Quotes”
Song titles are always surrounded by quotation marks, like *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye,” or “A Whole New World” from Disney’s Aladdin.
Album Titles in Italics
Album titles, on the other hand, are always italicized. For example, while I will openly admit to loving Journey’s power ballad “Faithfully,” I think pretty much every song on their Greatest Hits album should be sung at karaoke nights across the country.
Other Italics Questions
Of course, lots more media have titles than just songs and albums. There are books, short stories, podcasts, TV shows, episodes . . . the list goes on and on. Want more italics advice? Check out our ultimate title-writing guide for answers to all your italics conundrums.
Sunday night was the closing ceremony of the Olympics, and I don’t know if you were paying attention, but the Spice Girls were there and dancing it up (well, except for Posh).
Take fifteen minutes and write about the hypothetical conversation the ladies of the group had in determining the songs they would play for the ceremony (or any other band in any other situation is fine too). Post your practice in the comments, and leave notes for other writers brave enough to publish as well.
Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.
The following guidelines are rules set out in the AP Stylebook for AP style book titles, computer game titles, AP Style movie titles, opera titles, play titles, poem titles, album titles, AP Style song titles, radio and television titles, and the titles of lectures, speeches, and work of art.
In AP Style, magazines names and titles are governed by their own rules. See AP Style Magazine Names.
How to Capitalize Composition Titles
Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
Capitalize an article (a, an, the) or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in the title.
Put quotation marks around the names of all of the aforementioned types of works except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs or reference materials. Items of reference include almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks, and other such similar publications. You should not include quotations around such software titles such as Adobe Photoshop or Windows.
You should translate a foreign title into an English one unless the specific word is commonly known by its foreign name. There is one exception to this and that is for reviews of musical performances. In such instances, you should generally refer to the work in the language that it was sung in, so as to differentiate it for your reader. However, musical compositions in Slavic languages are always referred to in their English translations.
For other classical music titles, use quotation marks around the composition’s nicknames but not compositions that are identified by their sequence. For example,
- Beethoven’s “New World Symphony,” but Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
Below are a number of examples for composition titles in AP Style,
AP Style Book Titles
- “To Kill a Mockingbird”
- “The Magician’s Nephew”
- “Of Mice and Men”
AP Style Movie Titles
- “Saving Private Ryan”
- “Trouble With the Curve”
- “The Dark Knight Rises”
AP Style Song Titles
- “Stairway to Heaven”
- “Hey Jude”
- “Good Vibrations
AP Style Videogame Titles
- “Call of Duty”
- “God of War”
- “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell”
AP Style Opera Titles
- “A Night in the Chinese Opera”
- “Nixon in China”
- “The Lighthouse”
AP Style Play Titles
- “The Sound of Music”
- “The Book of Mormon”
- “Fiddler on the Roof”
AP Style Poem Titles
- “The Road Not Taken”
- “A Pretty a Day”
- “Seeker of Truth”
AP Style Album Titles
- “Appetite for Destruction”
- “And Justice for All”
- “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
AP Style Television Titles
- “How I Met Your Mother”
- “The Tonight Show”
- “Good Morning America”
AP Style Website Titles
Most websites and apps are capitalized without quotations. For example,
“Farmville” and similar computer games apps are an exception and should be in quotes.
For classical compositions, use quotation marks around the composition’s nicknames but not compositions identified by its sequence. For example,
- Dvorak’s “New World Symphony.”
- Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9.