CONTENT WRITINGPunctuating And Capitalizing Titles In AP Style

Punctuating and Capitalizing Titles in AP Style

All the explanations, examples, and exceptions to capitalization and punctuation of titles in AP style are found in this article.

Most compositions are capitalized and punctuated similarly. When it comes to book, computer game, movie, opera, play, poem, album, song, radio program, television program, lecture, speech, and art titles, the guidelines are pretty simple.

While the best way to stay up-to-date on title rules in AP style is to look up the rules in the latest copy of the Associated Press Stylebook, this brief article will help you understand how to punctuate and capitalize titles in articles and papers.

The general rules are to capitalize the main words, first and last words and words that are four letters or longer. Translate foreign works into English unless they are known by their foreign titles. Place most titles in quotation marks. The explanations, examples and exceptions to these rules are below.

Capitalize Main Words

Capitalize all major or key words in a title, but also capitalize all prepositions and conjunctions that are four letters or more.

Examples include:

  • “The Day the World Ended”
  • “Through the Looking Glass”
  • “The Key to the Future”
  • “CBS Evening News”

Capitalize the First and Last Words

The first and last words of the title should always be capitalized, including articles (a, an, the) and words of fewer than four letters.

Examples include:

  • “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”
  • “A Wrinkle in Time”
  • “Of Mice and Men”
  • “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Use Quotes Around Title Names

Use quotation marks around all titles listed above. For print publications, the use of quotation marks over italics is primarily because of the inability of traditional print presses to create italicized text, but this AP style practice is still often used in internet and modern print practices.

Exceptions to works that should be quoted include:

  • catalogs of reference
  • almanacs
  • directories
  • dictionaries
  • encyclopedias
  • gazetteers
  • handbooks and similar publications
  • the Bible
  • Software titles

Examples of these include:

  • Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language
  • Poor Richard’s Almanac
  • Microsoft Encarta
  • WordPerfect
  • Windows

Translate Foreign Works and Titles Into English

Unless the title of a work is well-known in its foreign language, always translate the title or work into English, remembering that the goal of AP style is to simplify the reader’s job, not complicate it.

Examples include:

  • Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” not “Die Verwandlung”
  • Maupassant’s “The Necklace” not “La Parure
  • But “Die Walkuere” and “Gotterdammerung” from Wagner’s “The Ring of the Nibelungen”

Remember to capitalize the first and last word of each title, to capitalize key words and words more than four letters long, to place quotation marks around most works and titles and to translate foreign works into English when writing titles in AP style.

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