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English Grammar And Writing

Underline or Italicize Movie Titles

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We include movie titles in academic, professional, and informative work. Many people wonder how to correctly format movie titles in a written work. In this lesson, you will learn what is broadly accepted and the exceptions to the general rule.

In the Past

Once upon a time, underlining and italics used to be equally acceptable when formatting movie titles in written work. As long as you were consistent, no one cared that much. We once used these things called typewriters (remember those?), and it was sometimes difficult to type italic letters on a typewriter.

With the birth of the computer, creating italics became as easy as hitting a few buttons. Now, nearly everyone puts movie titles in italics. Italicized writing, if you are wondering, is the slightly slanted version of text, as in this sentence.

The Present

Almost no one uses underlining anymore for anything, including movies, books, poems, essays, songs, articles, or short stories. The only real exception may be when handwriting something, as it is not possible to create italics when writing by hand. In this case, underlining a movie title is accepted.

The general rule for long works, like movies, or even collections of short movies, like Pixar's Short Films, is to put the title in italics. Movies, as well as a television series as a whole, like Friends, are considered long works, and are therefore italicized. This does not mean you cannot use underlining, but most modern literature, citation, and style guides agree that italics is the correct way to go when considering whether to underline or italicize movie titles.

  • When you compare Star Wars to Star Trek, there are few similarities but many very noticeable differences.
  • Historically, movies like A Clockwork Orange have been considered cult films and not appropriate for small children.
  • My favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz.
  • 9 to 5 was a breakout movie for Dolly Parton.
  • The Lord of the Rings movie series is based on a trilogy of books.

Be Consistent

What is even more important, and this is the most important part of this lesson, is to be consistent. If for some reason you decide to go with underlining, stick with it and do not switch to italicizing in the same work, and vice-versa.

This is worth repeating. Be consistent. Whether for an academic, professional, or informational piece or document, always stick with the same formatting.

Movies In a Series

If the movie is in a series, like Star Trek, The Wrath of Khan, this is considered a long work and put into italics.

However, only The Godfather would be in italics in The Godfather trilogy, as trilogy is not an official part of the movie title.

The Exceptions to the Italic Rule

If you are submitting an article for publication, some editors prefer underlining to italics. Check with the publication first.

If you want to include the title of an individual episode in a television series, the general rule is put this into quotation marks, like Friends, “The One with Rachel's Going Away Party”.

Style Guides

Different style guides have different rules for formatting movie titles. What is important is to be consistent and to follow the rules of the style guide you are using.

Modern Language Association (MLA)

The MLA recommends italicizing movie titles.

Chicago/Turabian Manual of Style

Recommends italicizing movie titles.

American Psychological Association (APA),

Recommends italicizing movie titles.

Associated Press (AP)

The AP style guide may be the exception to the general italics rules. AP suggests capitalizing movie titles and putting them in quotation marks.

  Umbreen Aleem       Thursday, 02 Jan 2020       142 Views

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