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How to Write a Book Title in an Essay: A Simple Guide

Julia McCoy
Thursday, 18th Apr 2024
how to write a book title in an essay

Mastering the art of citation is crucial for academic writing, and one common dilemma writers face is how to write a book title in an essay.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the ins and outs of citing book titles, exploring different citation styles, and providing practical tips to ensure your essays are not only well-written but also properly referenced.

Whether you’re navigating the nuances of MLA, APA, or Chicago style, we’ve got you covered with clear guidelines and examples to help you confidently write book titles in your next masterpiece.

Let’s get started!

Table Of Contents:

How to Write Book Titles in Essays

Writing book titles in essays can be tricky, especially with different style guides like MLA, APA, and Chicago. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with some tips and examples on how to quote a book title in your essay.

MLA Style Guide

In MLA style, book titles are italicized, both in the text of your paper and in the Works Cited list.

For example: Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a powerful novel about the lasting impact of slavery.

how to write a book title in an essay

APA Style

Similarly, in the style guide of the American Psychological Association, book titles should also be italicized in the text and the reference list.

For instance: In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield grapples with the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Chicago Manual

In Chicago style, book titles are italicized in the text and the bibliography.

Like this: Michael Pollan explores the origins of our food in The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.

How to Format Book Citations

Regardless of the style guide, there are some general formatting rules to keep in mind.

Titles of books should be underlined or italicized. Titles of stories, essays, and poems are placed in quotation marks.

Refer to the text specifically as a novel, story, essay, memoir, or poem, depending on what it is.

Capitalization Rules

Use capital letters to write the title of a novel.

For example, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Quotation Marks

Titles of stories, essays, and poems are placed in “quotation marks.” This helps differentiate them from longer works like novels or non-fiction books.

Writing Various Types of Titles in Essays

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into some specifics for different types of titles you might encounter.

Journal Articles

If the book title is part of a larger work, like a journal article, it should be underlined instead of italicized.

Short Stories

Titles of short stories should be placed in quotation marks.

For example: “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.

Chapter Titles

When referencing a chapter title, enclose it in quotation marks.

For instance: “The Boy Who Lived” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Article Titles

Article titles, like those found in English-language newspapers or magazines, should also be placed in quotation marks.

For example: “Why We Crave Horror Movies” by Stephen King.

Newspaper Titles

Italicize the names of newspapers, like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.


The names of websites should generally be italicized, such as The Huffington Post or BuzzFeed.

Book Series

When referring to a book series as a whole, italicize the name of the series. Individual books within the series should also be italicized.

For example: the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, which includes titles like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Emphasizing Book Titles in Essays

Sometimes you want to draw extra attention to a book title in your essay. Here’s how to do it effectively.

When to Italicize

As a general rule, italicize the titles of longer works such as books, edited collections, movies, television series, documentaries, or albums.

When to Use Quotation Marks

Shorter works like poems, articles, book chapters, songs, TV episodes, or other shorter works should be placed in quotation marks.

Exceptions to the Rules

As with any rule, there are exceptions. Some style guides prefer underlining to italics. Others may recommend using quotation marks around the title and italicizing or underlining the name of the newspaper or magazine it appears in.

When in doubt, always check with your instructor or the publication you’re writing for.

Punctuating and Capitalizing Book Titles

Punctuation and capitalization are key when it comes to book titles in essays. Get it wrong, and your writing won’t look as polished.

Using Question Marks

If a book title ends with a question mark or exclamation point, include it in the italics.

For example: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Capitalization Rules

In general, capitalize the first word and all major words (nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and some conjunctions).

Don’t capitalize articles, prepositions, or conjunctions unless they’re the first or last word.

Some style guides recommend capitalizing prepositions five letters or longer.

how to write a book title in an essay

Title Case

Title case is the most common form of title capitalization and is found in all four major title capitalization styles (AP, APA, MLA, and Chicago).

Capitalize the first word in the title, the last word in the title, and all “major” words in between.

Proper Nouns

Always capitalize proper nouns, such as the names of people, places, organizations, or other proper nouns in a book title.

For example: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling.

Examples of Writing Book Titles in Essays

Let’s look at some examples of how to write book titles in various situations.

Classic Literature

When referencing a classic work of literature, italicize the book’s title in the text of your paper.

In the Works Cited entry, include the author’s full name, the title of the book (in italics), the publisher, and the year of publication.

For example:

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Penguin Classics, 2002.

Contemporary Literature

For a contemporary work, follow the same format in the text of your essay.

In the Works Cited entry, include the author’s name, book title (in italics), publisher, year of publication, and medium of publication (print, web, etc.).

Here’s an example:

Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. Doubleday, 2016. Print.

Non-Fiction Works

When citing a non-fiction book, use the same format as you would for a fictional work. Italicize the book title in the text and the Works Cited entry. Include the author’s name, book title (in italics), publisher, year of publication, and medium of publication.

For instance:

Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. Anchor Books, 1997. Print.

FAQs – How to Write a Book Title in an Essay

How do you write the title of a book in a sentence?

In sentences, capitalize the first word and proper nouns. If it’s central to your point, italicize it.

Is a book title italicized or in quotes?

Book titles are usually italicized. Quotes are for shorter works like articles or poems.

How do you write a book title in a handwritten essay?

If handwritten, underline book titles instead of using italics to highlight them.


So there you have it – your complete guide to how to write a book title in an essay. By following these simple rules for MLA, APA, and Chicago style, you’ll be able to format your book titles correctly every time.

Remember, the key is to be consistent and pay attention to the details. Whether you’re italicizing, underlining, or using quotation marks, make sure you’re applying the rules consistently throughout your essay.

Written by Julia McCoy

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