How to Format Song Titles in Reports, Newsletters, and Other Documents

Learn when to use italics and quotation marks to write clearly

Barring any overriding style guides used for a specific organization or school, the general rule is to use quotations for song titles and italicize CD or album titles. Do not use underlining (in place of italics) unless you're using a typewriter or writing titles by hand.

Laptop computer with cable forming musical notes
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How to Format Song Titles in Reports, Newsletters, and Other Documents

For matters of style when punctuating and formatting titles of any kind, turn first to the style guide prescribed by your employer, client, or teacher. In the absence of a prescribed style, use the following guidelines:

  • Put quotation marks around song titles: For best appearance in professionally typeset material, use proper typographical quote marks and apostrophes (curly quotes).
  • Set CD/album titles in italics: In typeset material, watch out for fake italics. That's not a grammar rule but it is a good design and printing rule.

In desktop publishing and word processing software, create character styles to quickly format song titles and other types of titles used throughout a document.

Example References to Song Titles and Albums

Here are two examples of text that includes song titles and album titles:

  • Trace Adkins' first #1 single “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing” is from his 1997 CD Dreamin’ Out Loud
  • The title cut from Toby Keith’s How Do You Like Me Now? was the most-played country song of 2000. Other favorites from the same album include “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like That” and “Country Comes to Town.”

When the song/album is the same: In the second example, although “How Do You Like Me Now?” is the song title, it is also the album title and in that context is treated as the album title, using italics. It would be just as correct to write: My favorite song on the How Do You Like Me Now? album is “How Do You Like Me Now?”

Punctuation in titles: When a song title ends in a question mark, exclamation point, or other punctuation, that punctuation goes inside the quotation marks because it's part of the song title. The beginning portion of the Adkins song title in parentheses is contained in the quotation marks the same as the other part of the song title.

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