Home Guide English Grammar Punctuation How to Punctuate Titles

How to Punctuate Titles

Rate this item
(0 votes)

When a student or anyone else engages with literature or other artistic works, a common challenge can come up: providing the right punctuation for the title of a book, play or other work of literature. Even paintings and works of visual arts have their own titles that often get punctuated in specific ways. For anyone who is pondering the sometimes complex task of transcribing important names of works or identifying artistic works the right way, here are some common tips for knowing how to punctuate titles.

Use commas as appropriate. Some complex titles do have commas in the title. An example of these is when the title includes two or more generic nouns, for example, in works of fiction like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Check for question marks and exclamation points. Most titles of books, plays and other works will not include these. Still, this is something to consider for correctly referring to a title, especially when the work is a more modern one.

  • Use question marks when the title for a work seems to ask a question. Some books and other projects have an interrogative theme and may include a question mark in the title to emphasize this.
  • Consider adding an exclamation point if the title seems to indicate an impassioned or imperative statement.

Complete further research on newer, more avant-garde or more eccentric titles. Although the majority of titles do not include much punctuation, some specific works are written with titles that are made to express the unique nature of the play, story, etc. Look for acronyms and other uses of periods. Leaving out a period or other punctuation item in a work of art can be a problem if the artist included those bits of punctuation deliberately.

Figure out necessity for underlining, italicizing, bolding or providing quotation marks for a title. A common issue with citing titles of works is the idea that different norms apply to special kinds of artwork. Use available standards to punctuate every title the right way. Differentiate between italicizing or underlining a title and making quotes around a title. The conventional wisdom on the subject is that longer and more epic works, like novels, get italicized or underlined, while short ones and others that are part of a greater set, like a short story or a song, get put into quotation marks.


Use available style guides. For example, the popular MLA guide gives appropriate information on how to punctuate a title or any other part of a paper or project. A student can review a given syllabus for a class to see which specific style guides apply, but the general treatment of titles is the same for most major styles.

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Punctuate Titles. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.