Italics for titles of novels in dialog? Use or Not?


What about the use of book titles in dialog? They are normally italicized, but they sometimes seem redundant or stand out.


"I loved the novel War and Peace," he said.

I just identified War and Peace as a novel. Why identify it again by using italics. And in speaking, there is no emphasis on the title. We don't say, "Hey, this is a novel, get it?" Italics replaced underlining, and we would never underline words in a novel or put words in color (except for children's books).

asked Nov 11 '12 at 18:48 Roger Carrier New member

2 answers


You make an interesting, valid point.  The various style guides don't really address how to handle titles in dialogue. Let me offer the following thoughts, however, for your consideration:


(a) The style guides all call for consistency -- however you handle titles, you should handle them the same way throughout your text.

(b) It may become necessary in your dialogue to identify a title as a title. Without such identification, the title could be misread for being part of the text rather than being a noun phrase. If that occurs, you will want/need to italicize the title.

(c) If you have to italicize the title in one place, you should italicize all titles.


So for clarity and consistency, I would say italicize all titles, even if it seems a bit redundant (I tend toward the conservative in these matters). Other editors may disagree.

link comment edited Nov 11 '12 at 19:05 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Me, too. You wouldn not not capitalize someone's name because it's clearly understood to be a name. (Can you say 'not not'?)


My father, richard neidhardt, was a good man.

link answered Nov 11 '12 at 21:32 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow

You would not not not capitalize. The triple neg. . .dig it!

TolleyNov 11 '12 at 21:47

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