How to Format Titles Properly


Properly formatting titles can positively impact an editor's first impression of a writer's work. Therefore, it's critical for the writer who desires to become successful to learn a few principles for creating a proper title format. The following steps can help you apply these principles for properly formatting book titles, as well as correctly citing the titles of various other types of written works.

  • Space down to the middle of the first page of the manuscript or cover page before typing titles--including chapter titles. Use the "Enter" key to do this. This format properly centers your title between the top and bottom margins, leaving room at the top of the page for editorial instructions to the typesetter. (This format should also be used for short story titles, though it's unnecessary for any type of web copy.)

  • Center titles between the left and right margins. Use your word processing program's centering function to do this. (Again, use this centering for short story and article titles, as well; though it's often unnecessary for properly formatting web copy.)

  • Use an easy-to-read 12-14 point font, such as Times New Roman or Courier. Many publishers prefer Courier, because it's a monospaced, rather than proportional font. In a monospaced font, every letter takes up the same amount of space, whereas with proportional fonts (like Times New Roman), letters such as "i" and "l" use less space. (This isn't as important as it used to be, however, since the advent of the word-count feature in today's word processing programs has made estimating word counts all but obsolete.)

  • Capitalize titles properly. It's usually best not to use all caps for titles. Instead, begin each major word in the title with a capital letter, leaving shorter--meaning fewer than four-letter--words uncapitalized. Exceptions to the short-word rule are the first and last words of the title, all verbs and the pronoun "I." For proper title format, always capitalize these words.

  • Italicize, underline or use quotation marks (as explained in the next step) around titles of any other works you use as part of your own works' titles. Don't place your entire title in quotation marks, underline or italicize it, however, unless you're citing it in another work. You may use bold type for titles, if desired. Remember not to place a period at the end of a title.

  • Underline or italicize book titles when cited in other literary works. For other types of written citations, use the following format: italics for films, plays, court cases and long or epic poems; and double quotation marks for article or essay titles, book chapters, TV episodes, songs and short stories or poems.

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