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Ask The Writer

Do I italicize the title of a short story? What about poem titles?

Titles of individual short stories and poems go in quotation marks. The titles of short story and poetry collections should be italicized. For example, “The Intruder,” a short story by Andre Dubus appears in his collection, Dancing After Hours.

This can get a little tricky when authors title their collection after a story within that collection. Junot Diaz’s collection of stories Drown includes a story titled “Drown.” In this case, the use of italics or quotation marks can help the reader understand what’s being referenced—the entire book or the individual story.

This usage remains true even when titles appear within quotations. Let’s say you write a poem about a poem and you title it this way:
Lines after Reading “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Now, you need to enclose the entire title of the poem within quotations when you mention this poem in a cover letter. The title that appears within the title, then, should be enclosed in single quotation marks:
“Lines after Reading ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’”



Our writing expert is Gotham teacher, Brandi Reissenweber. Email your questions to WritingQuestions at WriterMag.com. This piece originally appeared in the Ask the Writer column on the website for The Writer magazine. See more advice from our expert.
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