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Proper Formatting of Song Titles in Written Documents

Learn when to use italics and quotation marks for clear writing

what to know

  • Please refer to the style guide provided by your employer, client or teacher.
  • If there is no style guide, the general rule is to use quotation marks around the song title and italicize the CD or album title.
  • Do not use underline instead of italics unless you are using a typewriter or handwriting headings.

This article explains the correct format for song titles in written files and includes examples.

Formatting song titles in written files

For questions about style when punctuation and formatting in any type of heading, please first consult the style guidelines prescribed by your employer, client or teacher. In the absence of a style guide, use the following guidelines:

  • put quotation marks around the song titleNote: Use appropriate smart quotes and apostrophes (smart quotes) for better presentation of professional type material.
  • Italic CD/Album Title: In printed materials, please note false italics† This is not a grammar rule, but it is a good layout and printing rule.
  • don’t use underscore (instead of italics) unless you’re using a typewriter or handwriting headings.

Atomic Images/Getty Images

Create character styles in desktop publishing and word processing software to quickly format song titles and other types of titles used in documents.

Track and Album Title Reference Examples

Here are two examples of lyrics with song title and album title:

  • Trace Adkins’ first single “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing” came from his 1997 CD dream out loud
  • toby keith clip title How do you feel about me now? It was the most played country song of 2000. Other hits from the same album were “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like That” and “Country Comes to Town”.

When the song/album is the same: In the second example, although “How do you feel about me now?” is the title of the song and also the title of the album, in this case it is considered the title of the album and it is in italics. It is just as correct to write: My Favorite Song How do you feel about me now? The album is “How Much Do You Like Me Now?”

Punctuation in headings: When a song title ends with a question mark, exclamation mark, or other punctuation mark, the punctuation mark is enclosed in quotation marks because it is part of the song title. The first part of the Adkins song title in parentheses is enclosed in quotation marks, as is the other part of the song title.

Content

Proper Formatting of Song Titles in Written Documents

Learn when to use italics and quotation marks to write clearly

What to Know
Refer to the style guide specified by your employer, client, or teacher.
In the absence of a style guide, the general rule is to use quotation marks for song titles and italicize CD or album titles.
Don’t use underlining in place of italics unless you are using a typewriter or writing titles by hand.

This article explains the proper formatting of song titles in written documents and includes examples.

How to Format Song Titles in Written Documents

For matters of style when punctuating and formatting titles of any kind, turn first to the style guide prescribed by your employer, client, or teacher. In the absence of a style guide, use the following guidelines:

Put quotation marks around song titles: For best appearance in professionally typeset material, use proper typographical quote marks and apostrophes (curly quotes).
Set CD/album titles in italics: In typeset material, watch out for fake italics. That’s not a grammar rule but it is a good design and printing rule.
Do not use underlining (in place of italics) unless you’re using a typewriter or writing titles by hand.

Atomic Imagery / Getty ImagesIn desktop publishing and word processing software, create character styles to quickly format song titles and other types of titles used throughout a document.
Example References to Song Titles and Albums

Here are two examples of text that includes song titles and album titles:

Trace Adkins’ first #1 single “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing” is from his 1997 CD Dreamin’ Out Loud. 
The title cut from Toby Keith’s How Do You Like Me Now? was the most-played country song of 2000. Other favorites from the same album include “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like That” and “Country Comes to Town.”

When the song/album is the same: In the second example, although “How Do You Like Me Now?” is the song title, it is also the album title and in that context is treated as the album title, using italics. It would be just as correct to write: My favorite song on the How Do You Like Me Now? album is “How Do You Like Me Now?”

Punctuation in titles: When a song title ends in a question mark, exclamation point, or other punctuation, that punctuation goes inside the quotation marks because it’s part of the song title. The beginning portion of the Adkins song title in parentheses is contained in the quotation marks the same as the other part of the song title.

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