Formatting Titles


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Let’s face it: For whatever reason, formatting titles can be confusing, especially if you think about all the titles that need proper formatting–the title placed on the title page of a paper, the title of a journal article mentioned in the body of a paper, the title of a newspaper or a website on the list of references. There are titles of books and titles of chapters in those books; titles of blogs and titles of blog entries. Some titles are italicized and some are put in quotation marks. Titles on the list of references require formatting–some titles use title case, some sentence case; some titles are italicized and some are not. And then there are those situations where titles are used in in-text citations–some titles are truncated and italicized; some are put in quotation marks–you get the idea. 

First off, I am not going to address how to format titles when citing in the paper or listing on the list of references—those are formatting guidelines for another time. I am going to focus on titles on the title page, the first page of the paper, and within a paper. Here is what you need to keep straight:

Titles require special capitalization called title case. Title case requires one to

  • capitalize the first letter of the first and last words of a title;
  • capitalize the first letter of all verbs;
  • capitalize all words of four or more letters;
  • capitalize the first letter of all other words except a, an, the, short conjunctions such as “for, and, but,” and prepositions of fewer than four letters (words like “up, in, off”);
  • capitalize the first letter of a word following a colon or dash;
  • capitalize the first letter of a subtitle. 

When a title appears on the title page of an APA Style 7th edition student paper, that title should be centered, bolded, and in title case—no need to use all caps, no need to italicize or underline, and no need to use quotation marks or place a period at the end. 

Simply type out the title using title case and bold it–that’s it.

On the first page of the essay, center and repeat the title, bold it, and use title case. Again, do not use any special formatting. Do not use a bigger font size or style. Do not underline or italicize and so forth. Just use title case, bold, and center the title on the first page of the essay.

Easy enough, right?

Titles that appear within an essay require special formatting in addition to title case. If the title is for an article—content that is part of a greater whole—then the title should have quotation marks around it. If the title is for a book, journal, newspaper, or some other whole work, then the title is italicized.

Let’s say you have an article titled “The New Coffee Culture” that appears in the journal Studies in Popular Culture. Let’s also say that for whatever reason, you name both titles in the body of your paper. The article “The New Coffee Culture” appears in the journal Studies in Popular Culture, so the article is content that appears in a greater whole, right? 

Both titles would be in title case. The article “The New Coffee Culture” would have quotation marks around it, and the title of the journal, Studies in Popular Culture, would be italicized. 

I hope this blogcast clarifies exactly what you need to do when formatting titles in typical usage situations in APA style. 

Until next week–

Kurtis Clements

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