Italics, Inverted Commas or Underline?

Last updated Jan 22, 2024
By Gwenydd Jones

Should the following in-text references be underlined, formatted in italics or put in inverted commas? (According to The Chicago Manual of Style.)

  1. Book title
  2. Journal article title
  3. Title of a famous speech
  4. Name of a work of art
  5. Conference talk title

Scroll down to see the answers!

Table of Contents



The overriding rule under The Chicago Manual of Style is to italicise the name of free-standing works (books, TV series, operas, lengthy stand-alone poems and the like). You would then use inverted commas when the title forms part of a larger work (chapters, episodes, songs on albums and poems in collections, for instance). It can sometimes be hard to make a call because you hit a grey area. Also, certain works may appear as stand-alone works sometimes and as part of a collection on other occasions. If this happens and you can’t double check (e.g. in an exam) then make a decision you can justify and be consistent. Underlining is outdated; I just wrote that to try to catch you out.

  1. Book title: italicise (chapters would go in inverted commas).
  2. Journal article title: inverted commas (with the title of the journal requiring italics).
  3. Title of a famous speech: italicise (bog-standard speeches go in inverted commas).
  4. Name of a work of art: italicise (the name of an exhibit or collection of works would also be italicised).
  5. Conference talk title: inverted commas (the conference name would be written in title case, without italics).
Check out this style quiz on how to format the titles of works in your writing! Will you get full marks? #translation Click To Tweet

Written by Gwenydd Jones

Gwenydd Jones is a Spanish- and French-to-English translator, an SEO blogger and a course creator. She is the founder of The Translator's Studio and the lead teacher on its courses. Connect with Gwenydd on LinkedIn or contact her through this website.

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