How to Write a Book Title in an Essay
How to Write a Book Title in an Essay
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How to Write a Book Title in an Essay

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Author:
Samantha W.
Jan 4, 2024
8 min

How to Write a Book Title in an Essay: APA, MLA, Chicago, & More

Be it an argumentative, expository, or persuasive essay, you can’t write one without mentioning a title or two of other works in its body. That’s because few essays can rely on no sources at all.
However, just like with references and citations, there are tons of rules that determine how to write the title of a book in an essay. Some of them apply to all essays, like using italics. Others, like capitalization, vary from one formatting style to another.
So, how should you put the title of a book into your essay? And why does it matter, even? We’ve asked our essay-writing experts to answer these questions and give some advice to students like you. Here’s what they had to say on adding book titles to MLA, Chicago, and APA essays. (And yes, they’ve provided some examples, too!)

How to Write Book Titles in Essays: 5 General Tips

So, how do you write a book title in an essay? Whatever format you have to use for your essay, there are five general rules you should apply to cite a book title in the text:
3. Italicize the title. The cited work’s title should be formatted using italic text, e.g., The Catcher in the Rye. You can add the author’s name before the title as follows: John Irving’s A Widow for One Year. If punctuation is a part of the title (e.g., there’s a question mark at the end), it should also be italicized.
4. Use quotation marks if you mention both the book title and series. In this case, the series name will have to be italicized, while the book title should be in quotes: “Mockingjay”, the second entry in The Hunger Games trilogy.
5. Put chapter titles in quotes. For example: “The Dark Mark” in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. However, if you refer to the chapter by its number, quotes aren’t necessary: Chapter 9 in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
6. Follow the traditional writing use for the title within the title. If you refer to a book the title of which already mentions another work, you can either italicize it or put it in single quotes (if it’s usually written using double quotes): Randall Spinks’ “The Hallucinatory (Cultural) Logic of Hitchcock's Vertigo”.
7. Put the title of the works within the book in quotes. For example, poems within a book should have quotes bracketing their titles, e.g., “Mending Wall” in Robert Frost’s North of Boston.
But this is where the general advice has to stop. Some rules on how to quote a book title depend on the formatting style you have to follow. We’ll break them down below.

How to Put a Book Title in an Essay: 4 Title Types

Now, how do you write the title of a book in an essay based on its type? Here’s your short guide:
  • Book titles. In this context, we refer to independent and self-contained works, be it a non-fiction book, a novel, or a collection of poems. When you introduce a book, you should italicize the book title and capitalize it according to the chosen formatting style.
  • Chapter titles. Put these titles in quotes without using the italic text.
  • Poem/essay/short story titles within a collection book. These titles should also be put in quotes.
  • Article titles. If the article is part of a journal or another larger work, you should put it in quotes. Otherwise, italicize it.

How to Refer to Foreign Literature

If the work you want to mention bears a title in English, it’s a no-brainer. However, if it’s originally published in German or Japanese, you may hesitate about which title to use: the original one or its translation into English.
The rule of thumb is to always use the original title in your works, even if it’s in another language, e.g., Friedrich Nietzsche’s Die fröhliche Wissenschaft. However, if the title is in a language that doesn’t use the Latin script, you can use its transcribed version, e.g., Haruki Murakami’s Kagami.
In case of doubt, don’t hesitate to ask your instructor to advise you on the best course of action.

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How to Write a Book Title in an Essay MLA Format

As mentioned above, capitalization rules for book titles are determined by the format. So, if you have to use the MLA format, here’s how to write the title of a book in an essay MLA:
  • Capitalize all nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions (e.g., ‘because’): Jojo Moyes’ *Me Before You*.
  • Don’t capitalize articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions (e.g., ‘but’, ‘and’, ‘or’), and ‘to’ in infinitives: *Profiles in Corruption, The Splendid and the Vile*.
  • Capitalize the first and last words of the title, regardless of the part of speech, when writing a book title in a paper: Mark Greeney’s *One Minute Out*.
  • Put a semicolon between the title and the subtitle, even if the punctuation is different in the source material: e.g., Paul McCarthey’s *The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present*; Lilly Singh’s *How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life*. Exception to the rule: if the title ends in a question mark, keep the question mark instead of adding a semicolon.
How to Write a Book Title in an Essay MLA Format

How to Include a Book Title in an Essay: MLA Examples

Want to see how to write a books name in an essay that uses the MLA format? Our experts have prepared several examples to help you format a book title according to the MLA rulebook:
  • “The Greatest Magic of Harry Potter: Reducing Prejudice” in *Journal of Applied Social Psychology*
  • *Wrinkles in Time* by Smoot, George F., and K. Davidson
  • Paula Hawkins’ *The Girl on the Train*
  • Solomon Northup’s *Twelve Years a Slave*

How to Write a Book Title in an Essay APA Format

Now, what if you need to mention a novel title in an APA essay? Well, prepare for a different set of capitalization rules! Here’s how to write the title of a book in an essay APA:
  • Capitalize all words that are four characters long or longer, regardless of the part of speech: *Deliver Us From Evil.*
  • Capitalize all major words shorter than four characters (nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives).
  • Always capitalize the first and last words of the title, no matter the part of speech: *The Black Box, The Last Man*.
  • Always capitalize the first word after the semicolon, question mark, exclamation point, colon, and em dash: Oprah: *A Biography*.
  • Always capitalize proper nouns (names of people, places, organizations, etc.), regardless of the length.
  • Capitalize both parts of a hyphenated word (e.g., *Top Secret Twenty-One*).
  • Don’t capitalize prepositions and conjunctions if their length is three words or below: *Liberty and Tyranny*.
  • Don’t capitalize articles (unless it’s the first or last word in the title): *Have a Little Faith*.
How to Write a Book Title in an Essay APA Format

How to Refer to a Book in an Essay: Chicago Format

Finally, there’s the Chicago format that you may be required to use for your essay. So, how should you state a book title in such a paper?
Let’s break down the three key rules to follow when mentioning a book title in an essay that uses Chicago:
  • Don’t capitalize any prepositions unless their purpose is to change the meaning of a verb or adverb (e.g., *‘Look Down’*).
  • Don’t capitalize articles and conjunctions, except for ‘yet’, ‘so’, and ‘if’.
  • Capitalize all other words plus the first word of the title.
Here are three examples of Chicago-style book titles:
  • *Things that Matter* by Charles Krauthammer
  • *For One More* Day by Mitch Albom
  • *I Feel Bad about My Neck* by Nora Ephron

Why Should You Properly & Correctly Write Book Titles?

All these rules on how to write a book title and author in an essay can seem overly complex at best – and annoying and mind-boggling at first. But once you get the hang of them, following these rules will come easy to you.
Still, why should you stick to these rules? Let’s list three good reasons to pay attention to how you refer to book titles in your essays:
  • It’s usually a grading criterion. If you don’t stick to the required formatting style throughout your essay, you may lose several points and get a lower grade. Showing you know the formatting rules and how to follow them means not just picking the right font size and margins – but also properly capitalizing titles!
  • It helps readers quickly spot a reference. Using italic text when you add a book title means sending a quick-to-process signal to your readers that it’s another person’s work. It’s also easier to spot these references when you scan through the text – italic text catches the eye.
  • It helps you stay consistent. One reason formatting rules exist is to help students like you remain consistent in your formatting throughout the paper – and your whole body of work, too.

What If You’re Writing an Essay by Hand?

In rare cases, you may have to write your paper by hand instead of typing it on your laptop or computer. This can happen when an essay is a part of your exam, for example.
So, which rules apply in the case of handwritten essays? Here’s a brief overview:
  • Capitalize the title according to the required format. If no format is specified, you can decide on your own how to capitalize it. However, remember to stay consistent in your capitalization choice.
  • Underline the title. Since you can’t italicize text when you’re writing by hand, you’ll have to underline the mentioned title instead. Underline the punctuation if it’s a part of the title as well. If you’re writing on a lined sheet of paper, make sure your underlining is visible

A Word of Caution: Stick to the Right Set of Rules

When you search for the formatting style rules online, make sure you don’t confuse the rules for the references page and in-text book title mentions. While you always have to italicize book titles and put chapter, essay, short story, and poem names in quotes, the same doesn’t necessarily apply to the references or works cited.
Besides that, keep in mind that the rules we laid out above don’t concern citations. To properly format those, consult the style’s guidelines on in-text citations.
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FAQ

When you type a book title in your essay:
  • Use italic text for the book title.
  • Use quotation marks for chapter titles or parts of the book (e.g., essay, poem, article titles) without italicizing text.
  • Use proper capitalization according to the formatting style you have to follow (rules differ across MLA, APA, and Chicago styles).
To mention a chapter title, put it into quotation marks, e.g., “Bagman and Crouch” in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. However, you can also refer to the chapter by its sequence number without the quotation marks, e.g., Chapter 7 in *Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire*.
When you cite a book title in an MLA essay:
  • Italicize the book title. If you’re referring to a chapter, poem, essay, or article within a book, put its title in quotes.
  • Don’t capitalize articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions (e.g., ‘but’, ‘and’, ‘or’), and ‘to’ in infinitives.
  • Capitalize all other words.
  • Capitalize the first and last words of the title.