How to Write Book Titles in Essays: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need

One of the most confusing cases for students in essay writing is formatting book titles. Every time you mention a book title, you find yourself wondering if you presented it correctly. Do you use quotation marks? Italics? Underline? Punctuations? What about capitalization?

Of course, each writing style, such as MLA, APA, or Chicago, has its own rules for writing a book name in an essay. Knowing the primary requirements of each academic style is critical for good essay writing and to get top marks from your professor.

Scared that you don’t know how to reference book titles? Don’t be. In this article, we’ll unscramble the mess by telling you why you should pay attention to title formatting and how to correctly write book titles for every case.

Why is it important to use the correct format when writing book titles in essays?

Well, using the wrong title format in an essay will simply get you a lower grade. Still, there are many other reasons why you should apply proper formatting when writing essays. Check them out below:

Demonstrate understanding

As a writer, adhering to the proper format provided in the styles guide, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, is an opportunity to prove your understanding of the principle of written materials in that field. Using the correct book titles in writing also increases your credibility since it’s a chance to demonstrate that you don’t just understand the topic; you also know how to write about it correctly.


Formatting styles such as APA, MLA, and Chicago have strict guidelines on how book titles should appear in academic papers and essays. Consistent format for book titles in essays prevents confusion for the readers and makes it easy and fast to identify what the writer is trying to say.

References and research

Adhering to a single book title format makes it easy to identify references used in an essay. Also, it assists other researchers relying on your paper to easily conduct research on a particular topic.

Prepare for further studies

If you’re a high school student or college undergrad, it’s important to familiarize yourself with all aspects of good essay writing. Understanding how to write book titles in essays is a great way to prepare for future academic endeavors, especially if our goal is to progress to graduate and/or postgraduate studies.

The correct way to write book titles in essays: APA style

APA is one of the most popular formatting styles in universities and colleges. Most times, it’s used as the default formatting style for essays, unless indicated otherwise. When writing your essay in APA, always give proper credit to the author by writing their full name and surname.

There are a few key rules you must remember when you want to write book titles in an essay using APA style:

  • Capitalize proper names and major words (nouns, adverbs, verbs, pronouns).
  • Use quotation marks (not italics) on either side of the book’s title, except when referring to the Bible, dictionaries, or almanacs. For example, “The Confidence-Man” by Terry Pratchett.
  • Words placed directly after a dash, semicolon or colon should be capitalized, for example Queen Mab; A Philosophical Poem; With Notes.
  • Any two-part words with a hyphen should be capitalized. For example, Make-Believe, Sit-In, and Slaughterhouse-Five.

Caution: Do not capitalize minor words in APA title format, which include

  • Articles placed in the middle of the title
  • Prepositions of three letters of fewer
  • Conjunctions of three letters or fewer

Formatting mistakes, such as writing book titles without indicating the authors, can be confusing to the reader who may not be familiar with the book or can lead them to think you just copied the title from another person’s work. When confused about the formatting rules, consider addressing someone professional to write my essays by CustomWritings instead of compromising your reputation and grade. Specialized services will ensure the book titles appear correctly and in a uniform format in each entry.

The correct way to write book titles in essays: MLA style

MLA is usually the default writing style used for essays in English, literature, linguistics, media, and cultural studies. Here are a few key things to know when writing book titles in essays using MLA:

  • The book’s title should be in italics (not quotation marks), except for holy texts like the Bible. For example, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin.
  • All major words, such as verbs, adjective, and nouns, should be capitalized
  • If the title contains punctuation, italicized it too.
  • Do not capitalize articles or prepositions (unless they’re at the beginning or the end).
  • Don’t capitalize coordinating conjunctions (and, for, so, but, or)
  • Use quotation marks (not italics) in MLA book titles when referring to a chapter or when you mention the book alongside a series it belongs to. For example, “A Clash of Kings” from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin.

The correct way to write book titles in essays: Chicago style essays

Chicago style is commonly used for essays in subjects such as history, anthropology, and other selected social sciences. Writing book titles in an essay using Chicago style is similar to what you’d do in MLA:

  • Italicize the title of a single book.
  • Capitalize all words with the exception of all conjunctions (irrespective of the length), articles, all prepositions (irrespective of the length).
  • Quote the title of a book chapter or other particle of a whole book. For example, “The Audience” is chapter 3 of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.

The correct way to write book titles in handwritten essays

Although you’re unlikely to write a handwritten essay in this day and age, it’s not inconceivable. That’s why you need to know how to write book names in essays, in case you have to handwrite an essay instead of typing it. To format the title correctly, follow the rules below:

Underlining guide

Always underline book titles in handwritten essays, no matter the format you’re using. Here are the rules:

  • Underline all words in the title, including those that come after a dash or colon
  • Underline any punctuation in the book title
  • Do not underline each word separately; use a continuous line

Capitalization guide

The same style rules used in typed essays will apply to handwritten essays:

  • For APA-style essays, capitalize the first letter of the first word and consecutive words with four or more letters.
  • When using MLA or Chicago styles to write book titles in essays, capitalize the first letter of the first word and every other word except for prepositions, articles, or coordinating conjunctions.

Writing book titles in essays is refreshingly straightforward when you understand the rules!

Mastering the art of writing book titles in essays takes practice. Hopefully, this post has provided all the relevant information you need to format your essay correctly in all the commonly used formats. Next time you write an essay, you will be confident about italicizing, capitalizing, underlining, or quoting a book title.

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