How to Write Book Titles in Essays: APA, MLA, Chicago Styles

It’s your practical and up-to-point guide on how to write a book title in an essay. You’ll get the formatting rules and examples for citing book and author names in academic papers.

We’ve covered the top three citation styles: APA, Chicago, and MLA.

How to Write the Title of a Book in an Essay

First, remember the general rules of citing book names in academic works.

Here’s how to cite books in essays:

  1. Use capitalization. Every word of a book’s name goes in the title case, except prepositions, articles, and coordinating conjunctions.
  2. Use italics for longer and independent works. Use double quotations for shorter ones (poems, articles, book chapters, or play acts and scenes).
  3. Use single quotations for a book’s title within another title. (When citing monographs about literary works, for example.) 

While capitalization rules depend on the citation style, some general tips have a place to be. Please, no capitalization for:

  • Articles: a, the (unless the book title begins with it)
  • Coordinating conjunctions and prepositions: of, and, or, but, for, to, nor, in, so (unless the book title begins or ends with it)

Subordinating conjunctions (although, unless, because, if) go in capital letters.

How to Write a Book Title in an Essay: APA

Formatting template:Examples:
Independent and self-contained books:

Book’s Name in Italics

Book chapters or short works (poems, essays, songs, articles):

“Quotation Marks for Names”
In her work, The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir explores the concept of women’s oppression. She argues for their liberation from traditional gender roles.

My favorite Harry Potter book is “The Order of the Phoenix.”

APA (American Psychological Association) is the most popular style for citing academic works. It’s common for the social sciences like Education, Psychology, Sociology, and others. The current edition: 7th (2019).

Book titles in APA stand for:

  • Italics. (If a book name includes any punctuation, italicize it too.)
  • Capitalization. (Capitalize all words longer than four letters, regardless of the part of speech. Also, use capital letters for two-part words and those coming after a dash or a colon.)
  • Double quotations instead of italics. (When citing a short work like an article or a poem; when citing a book chapter or when the book is a part of an anthology.)

For example: 

The Lord of the Rings but “The Fellowship of the Ring” (The latter is part of the trilogy.)

Related: How to Cite a Movie in APA Format

How to Write the Name of a Book in an Essay: Chicago

Formatting template:Examples:
Independent and self-contained books:

Book’s Name in Italics

Book chapters or short works (poems, essays, songs, articles):

“Quotation Marks for Names”
In Mr. Mercedes, the author delves into the chilling cat-and-mouse game between a retired detective and a deranged killer, presenting a gripping exploration of the human psyche.

In Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, the pivotal moment comes in “End of Watch,” bringing the story to a dramatic and suspenseful climax.

The Chicago Manual of Style is a guide by the University of Chicago. It’s common for fields like History, Fine Arts, and Business. The current edition: 17th (2017).

How to format book titles in Chicago:

  • Italicize longer and independent works; put shorter ones in double quotations.
  • Use italics for punctuation within a title.
  • Capitalize all words except articles (a, the) and ALL prepositions or conjunctions (regardless of length).

For example:

In George Orwell’s 1984, the author presents a dystopian society characterized by pervasive government surveillance and the suppression of individual freedom. The harrowing events in “Chapter 2,” where Winston Smith begins to rebel against the Party by starting a forbidden diary, mark a pivotal moment in the novel’s exploration of resistance against totalitarianism.

The style resembles the MLA format, but it’s flexible, allowing you to “break the rules if necessary.”

How to Write a Book Title in an Essay: MLA

Formatting template:Examples:
Independent and self-contained books:

Book’s Name in Italics

Book chapters or short works (poems, essays, songs, articles):

“Quotation Marks for Names”
In his influential work, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee examines racial injustice in the American South during the 1930s.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, “The Dementor” explores the chilling encounter with these sinister creatures in the wizarding world.

MLA format stands for the Modern Language Association. It’s common for humanities like Literature, Culture, Linguistics, etc. The current edition: 8th (2016). 

How to format books in MLA:

  • Italicize all words, including punctuation and those of two parts or going after colons and hyphens.
  • Capitalize all words except articles (a, the), prepositions, and short conjunctions within a book title.
  • Use double quotations instead of italics when writing a book chapter or a part of a book series.

For example:

In Little Women, Beth March dies in Chapter 40, “The Valley of the Shadow.”

Formatting Book Author Names in Papers

Use the author’s full name (first and last) to format it in your essay for proper credit.

If a book has two authors, use both last names and initials. For works with three or more authors, use the last name of the first one and add “et all.”

No need to italicize author names in papers.

Why Properly Cite Book Titles in Essays

The short answer:

You won’t get a high grade for an essay. Formatting blunders count as mistakes.

The longer answer:

  1. You prove writing skills and an understanding of the rules in academia.
  2. Your papers maintain consistency. It’s critical to stick to criteria to prevent confusion. The consistent format for book headings also serves to better scannability and readability.
  3. You learn to cite different types of references for your future projects.


Do you italicize book titles?

Yes, you put book titles in italics. Please italicize long and stand-alone works: books, movies, webpages, reports, or music albums. Shorter works’ titles (articles, essays, poems, songs, or book chapters) come in quotations. (1)

Do you underline book titles?

Underlining book titles is an outdated practice. Some still use it in handwritten essays, but it’s not a must-follow rule. Neither APA nor MLA (or Chicago) mentions underlining book names in academic papers.

How to use book title capitalization in texts?

Capitalize every word in a book’s title. Exceptions are articles (a, the), prepositions, and short (three or fewer letters) conjunctions in mid-titles.

Are books italicized in all formatting styles?

Yes, book titles come in italics in all styles: APA, MLA, and Chicago. When citing book chapters or a book as a part of a series, use quotation marks instead.

How to write a book author in an essay?

Use the author’s full name when citing their book in your papers. For works with several authors, mention their last names and initials. Unlike book titles, author names come in standard formatting with no italics.