Italics vs Quotes

Grammar Tutorial

Italics vs Quotes


When it comes to titles of things, when do you use italics, underlines, and quotes? Here’s a quick way to remember.

Sample Problem

Let’s say you’re writing an essay for class and want to cite the title of an episode of your favorite show. We’ll go with this one (because why not?).
Show: Star Trek: the Next Generation
Episode: Ship in a Bottle


Most are immediately confused. Do they both get quotes? Underlined? And what’s the difference between underlined, italicized, and quoted titles?

Here’s a trick to remember it:
BIG things get italicized (or underlined).
Little things get quotes.

Okay, well, what’s considered big and what’s considered little?
Big things are the whole thing, the whole thick chunk. Like the title of a book, an anthology, a show, or a music album.
Little things are the titles that can be pulled from that thick chunk, the little morsels, if you will. For instance, a chapter, a poem in an anthology, an episode, or a song.

So if you were going to cite the show we decided to use, it would look something like this:
I love Star Trek: the Next Generation‘s “Ship in a Bottle” episode from season six.
You would underline Star Trek: the Next Generation rather than italicize it (although, italics is what is recommended in current formatting).

Which brings me to the last question: what’s the difference between underlined, italicized, and quoted titles?
Well, we just went over the difference between italics and quotes in titles (BIG/little), so all that’s left is underlined. Where does it come in? And what’s the significance of underlined titles?
Here’s the deal with that: it’s the same as italics.
Underlined titles are BIG things. Essentially, you can you use italics or underlining for the titles of big things interchangeably. (I wouldn’t recommend that in essays; stick to one.) The difference is pretty much preference. Italics are more commonly used now, because it was once impossible to italicize titles in writing. We had no other option but to underline them. But now, with the wonderful invention of word processing systems and computers, we can italicize, making underlining of titles essentially obsolete. You can still use underlining, yes, but it is now more acceptable to use italics in it’s place if you are doing typed writing.
If you are stuck deciding which of the two to use (and you’re typing), use italics.

So again, BIG things get italicized (or underlined); small things get quotes.

I hope this helps!

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