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Title conventions

October 3, 2012
Posted at 1:04 pm

I learned something in school (a statement which might astound my teachers), but these days I'm not sure anyone else did. This was back in the days, FWIW, of typewriters - I learned to type on a manual typewriter, and to this day I sometimes hammer the keyboard with the force I learned to use way back then - when the Internet wasn't much over 20 years old and the Worldwide Web was still 10 or 12 years in the future (can y'all envision such a world?).

I learned that there are specific ways to write titles, which indicate what sort of work is in view. A novel or an anthology goes in italics, e.g. Starship Troopers or Night Shift, while a short story, article, or poem goes into quotes, for instance "The Short Happy Life of Francis MacComber" or "When Lilacs Last In the Dooryard Bloom'd." Where novellas fall I never learned, and I've since come to understand from much reading that they're in a gray area - sometimes they'll go in quotes and sometimes in italics, depending on the author and editor.

What isn't correct is to put everything in quotes. It's wrong to write about "Snakes and Arrows," "For Whom the Bell Tolls," or "Leaves of Grass," because these are - respectively - an album, a novel, and a book of poetry. They belong in italics: Snakes and Arrows, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Leaves of Grass.

I really doubt that pointing this out will do any good, however. If people can get through high school and go on to obtain a college degree without learning this, it's not likely that a post here will educate anyone. :)