Italics and Underlining: Titles of Works

Grammarly

There was a time when we didn’t have extensive formatting options for typed documents. Today, writers use underlining, italics, bold text, and quotation marks to emphasize certain words. The words that often get emphasized are names of ships or planes, words used as themselves, foreign words, and titles of books, movies, songs, and other titled works.

Italics and quotation marks are used today to emphasize titles of works such as books, poems, short stories, and articles. Different style guides have different standards for italics and quotation marks, so you’ll need to learn which to use.

Shorter Works:

Longer Works:

Titles of full works like books or newspapers should be italicized.

Titles of short works like poems, articles, short stories, or chapters should be put in quotation marks.

Titles of books that form a larger body of work may be put in quotation marks if the name of the book series is italicized.

How to Emphasize Book Titles

The way you format titles isn’t really governed by grammar rules. It’s a matter of style. If you want to, you can emphasize whatever you want, however you want—but that could make your writing nearly unreadable. Consistency is also very important for emphasis, which is why businesses, institutions, and publications look to style guides.

Book titles are usually put in the same category as other big, standalone, or complete bodies of work like newspapers, symphonies, or publications. Style guides that prescribe the use of italics, such as  The Chicago Manual of Style  or the  AMA Manual of Style , say that titles of such works should be put into italics when appearing in text.

Some writers still use underlining if italicizing is not an option, but generally it’s considered outdated. You should also note that these guidelines apply to titles that appear in a text and are surrounded by other words. Titles at the top of the page or on the front cover don’t require italics or underlining. Their separation from the rest of the text is already enough to get the reader’s attention. You don’t have to italicize the title of your thesis, for example, when it appears on the cover.

How to Emphasize Titles of Smaller Pieces of Work

Let’s say you want to write the title of an article or book chapter. Should you italicize it? For shorter pieces of work or works that don’t stand alone but are part of a greater whole, you should use quotation marks. See the examples below:

Punctuating Titles

Punctuating titles can cause trouble for some writers, but the rule is actually quite simple: If the punctuation is part of the title, include it in the italics or quotation marks. If it’s not part of the title, make sure it’s outside the italics or quotation marks.

In the first sentence, the title itself is a question, so the question mark is italicized as part of the title. In the second sentence, however, the title is not a question; rather, the sentence as a whole is a question. Therefore, the question mark is not italicized.

Exceptions for Emphasizing Titles

The rules for emphasizing titles may seem straightforward, but there are exceptions. What happens if you have more than one title, for instance? If you have, say, a collection of novels in one book (let’s take, for example, all three  Lord of the Rings  books in one handy paperback), the title of the collection would be italicized or underlined, and the titles of the three books would then be put in quotation marks.

Note that if the title contains ending punctuation marks, those should be included within the quotation marks. If a punctuation mark is used in the sentence containing a title, periods and commas should go inside the ending quotation mark, while question marks and exclamation points should go outside the ending quotation mark.

If you have two titles in one sentence (for example, a book title and a chapter title), the title of the larger work should be italicized, and the smaller work should be in quotation marks. See the example below:

You would also do this with episodes from TV shows:

Up for some exercise? See if you can emphasize the titles in the following sentences!

I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe over the summer.

Have you read Humble Origins to Classic Footwear, Espadrilles Endure on the Newsweek website?

Is Paradise Lost a poem?

The final part of Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, was my favorite.

You only get so much information about Harry from reading A Boy Who Lived.

A Boy Who Lived is the first chapter of the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

writing book titles

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Proper Way to Write Book Titles

by Dan (Indiana)

Hi there, When I write and want to talk about an author and the title of their book, how should I write the title? Should it be in quotes, underlined, italic or maybe something else? Please help.

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Table of Contents

Why Do Book Titles Matter?

The 5 attributes of a good book title.

Does Your Book Need A Subtitle?

More Ways to Read

How To Come Up With The Perfect Book Title [Ultimate Guide]

writing book titles

Don’t Have Time Right Now?

Shockingly, there’s little useful guidance out there about book titling. What advice exists is usually of little help:

They’re all wrong.

Just like companies that spend millions on naming new products, and media companies that spend time testing different titles for blog posts , you should spend substantial time and energy finding a great title.

This is a very important decision, one you need to get right to ensure your book has the best possible chance of success.

In this comprehensive guide to picking the perfect book title, I will walk you through how to think about book titles, then tell you how to pick yours, and how to test it.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this Scribe Guide:

Specific Steps To Find The Perfect Book Title

Step 1: Get Clarity On Your Book Goals

Step 2: brainstorm several potential titles.

Step 3: Make Sure This Title Is Not Already Popular

Step 4: Pick Your Favorites & Test Them

Test #1: Imagine People Saying The Title

Test #2: See What People Click On

Your book title is the most important marketing decision you’ll make. Period.

The title is the first thing the potential reader sees or hears about your book—even before the cover in most cases—and getting it right is the single most important book marketing decision you’ll make. The title forms the basis of the reader’s judgment about your book.

Let’s be clear: A good title won’t make your book do well. But a bad title will almost certainly prevent it from doing well.

The iconic example of the importance of a book title is the title change that led to an obscure book becoming a #1 best seller.

In 1982 Naura Hayden released a book called “Astro-Logical Love.” It bombed.

astrological-love-book-cover

She then took the exact same book, changed a small amount of the content, and changed the original title to a different title, “How to Satisfy a Woman Every Time…and Have Her Beg for More!”

satisfy-book-cover

That book became a massive cultural phenomenon and #1 best seller. Same book, same content, just a different title (I would argue a perfect title).

The takeaway for you is simple and clear: Spend time figuring out the best possible title for your book, because it will largely determine what people think about your book, and thus, your book’s success.

A good title should have all of these attributes:

1. Attention-Grabbing

There are a million things pulling on people’s attention. The right title helps you stand out and make that important first impression. A boring title is a killer.

There are many ways to grab attention. You can be provocative, controversial, exciting, make a promise, etc. The point is your title should make people stop and pay attention to it.

Here is what #1 best-selling author Tim Ferriss says about titles:

“The 4-Hour Workweek also bothered some people and was ridiculed by others, which I took as a positive indicator. It’s not accidental that Jay Leno parodied the book on-air—the title lends itself to it, and that was by design. You can’t have strong positive responses without strong negative responses, and beware—above all—the lukewarm reception from all. ‘Oh, that’s nice. I think it’s pretty good,’ is a death sentence. “

2. Memorable & Searchable

It’s much easier to get a reaction out of someone and then be forgotten, than it is to get a reaction and also be memorable.

Remember, a book’s title is not only the first thing a reader hears about your book, it’s the one piece of information that a potential reader has that leads them back to the book itself.

If your book is recommended to them by a friend, and they can’t remember the title, then they can’t go find it in a bookstore or on Amazon. Best-selling author Scott Berkun says it well:

“Often [the title] is all a potential buyer ever gets to see, and if they can draw interest the book crosses its first of many hurdles in the improbable struggle of getting noticed. But titles only help so much. Most people hear about books the same way they hear about new bands. Or new people to meet. A friend or trusted source tells them it was good and it was called  <NAME HERE>. The title at that point serves as a moniker. It’s the thing you need to remember to get the thing you want to get and little more. “

This also means you want the book title to be easily searchable. In the world we live in, search is how people find things now. If your title does not lend itself to easy memorization and searchability on Google and Amazon, that is very bad.

3. Informative (Gives an Idea of What the Book is About)

This is the least crucial aspect for fiction titles, but very important for non-fiction. The title, including the subtitle , should give the reader some sort of idea of what the book is about.

People aren’t going to do your work for you; the easier you make it for them to understand the subject, the more likely you are to draw in the people who’d find your book interesting.

A good test is to ask yourself this: If you were to tell someone the title of your book at a party, would they have to ask what it’s about?

If so, that’s probably a bad title.

Don’t out-think yourself on your title. A title that is overly clever or unclear signals the book is for people who immediately understand the word or phrase—which makes people who don’t get it right away feel dumb (and less likely to buy the book).

By using a word or phrase that is either not immediately understandable by your desired audience or doesn’t convey the point of the book, you’re putting a huge obstacle in front of your success.

Though your title should be informative and easily understood, it doesn’t need to spell out the entire book. Take Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling Outliers for example: this title does a great job of cuing the content of the book without describing it outright.

4. Easy & Not Embarrassing To Say

Having an easy to say title is a concept called cognitive fluency. It means people are more likely to remember and respond to words and phrases they can immediately understand and pronounce.

Without going too far into the psychological literature, the point is this: Don’t try to be sophisticated at the risk of being obscure.

It’s a basic fact of human psychology—people don’t like to feel socially awkward. If a book title is hard to pronounce, or more importantly, if it’s a phrase that sounds stupid when said out loud, it makes them far less likely to buy it, and chances are they won’t talk about it to other people.

One of the most important things to think about when picking your book title is word of mouth. Think about how people will feel about saying this book title out loud to their friends. Does it make them look smart or stupid?

The worst possible title is one that makes someone feel silly saying it out loud. For example, if the book title is something like “Why Racism Is Great,” no one is ever going to tell their friends about it, no matter how good the book is, because they have to then face the scrutiny of why they bought that book in the first place. Social context doesn’t just matter some; it matters a lot.

Take this list of bad book titles , and imagine saying any of them out loud to your friends in a serious way—you’d never do that.

Generally speaking, shorter titles are best. A short title is not only more memorable and easier to say for your target audience, it also gives space and flexibility for a better book cover. A one-word title is the best.

People get lured into crafting titles that are exacting and long-winded in an effort to make the title signal the book idea and audience. In the title, stick to the core idea. If you want to get wordy, then leave that to the subtitle.

If you can, aim to keep the main title around 5 words or less. The subtitle can offer context or tell a bit more about what the reader will learn. Cameron Herold’s book Meetings Suck has a pithy title, with a subtitle that helps the reader see why the need the book: Turning One of the Most Loathed Elements of Business into One of the Most Valuable.

Made to Stick

How To Come Up With A Book Title

Your goals for your book determine what type of title you pick.

If you want to build a brand out of your non-fiction book, your title options are quite different than if you want to publish a racy thriller.

Let’s examine all the functions your book title can serve, and the places for potential use, before we walk you through the precise process of thinking up title ideas:

How A Book Title Can Be Used

The point of this whole list is simple: Know which of these objectives apply to your book, and make sure your title can serve those objectives.

For example, if your goal is to build a brand, make sure your book title is your brand. Dave Asprey’s first diet book is called The Bulletproof Diet , because that’s his brand: Bulletproof. The book is about selling everything around the book, not just the book itself.

If your goal is authority in your field, make sure the book title sounds authoritative to whom you are trying to speak. Whimsical doesn’t work in serious academic fields, whereas serious doesn’t work in comedic fields.

If your goal is to get media attention and raise your visibility, make sure the book title l appeals to media and makes them want to cover you.

Brainstorming for titles is not a specific thing you do for an hour, but rather a long term process. It may take you months and hundreds of book title ideas to finalize your title.

But you start by simply brainstorming titles. Literally start a file and write down every working title you can think of for your book.

I know that telling someone to brainstorm is like telling someone to “be creative.” There is no best way to brainstorm, but there are a lot of best practices.

This is a list of every possible way we know of to find a good book title, complete with examples of book titles (remember, these techniques are not just for your main title, they will be the basis for your subtitles as well). Most of these are for nonfiction titles, though some can be used for novel titles.

Also, don’t be afraid to put bad titles on your brainstorm list. Bad titles actually help you–because they will get you to a good title. Here are some best practices:

Use Clever or Noteworthy Phrases From The Book

This is very common in fiction, and can work well with novel titles. It also works well with non-fiction books where the concept of the book can be summed up quickly or with one phrase.

Use Both Short and Long Phrases

We usually start with a really long title and work our way down to much a short title. The goal is the main title be as short as possible—no more than 5 words—and have the subtitle offer the context and put in important keywords.

Use Relevant Keywords

For non-fiction especially, search matters. You want to make sure that when someone searches for the subject or topic of your book, it will come up on Google and Amazon. But it’s a balancing act, because you don’t want to sacrifice the authenticity of the work for what looks and feels like a search string query.

If you are unsure of this, go look on Amazon and see how often subtitles and titles use additional keywords to attract more search engine traffic.

Make a Promise of a Benefit

Some of the best titles promise to help readers achieve a desired goal or get some wanted benefit. They specifically call out an end result that people want:

Be Simple and Direct

Some of the very best titles are just basic statements about what the book is. There is nothing wrong with this, it can work well, especially for strictly instructional books.

Target an Audience

As we said, people use titles to judge if the book is for them. Part of helping people understand this can be targeting them in your title. You can target specific audiences by naming them or by describing their characteristics. This works especially well if you have a series of books, and then do versions targeted to specific niches.

Offer a Specific Solution to a Problem

This is very popular in the self-help and diet spaces.

You tell the reader exactly what problem your book solves in the title. This is similar to the promise of a benefit, but not the exact same thing; a benefit is something additive, like being sexy. A solution to a problem takes away something negative, like losing weight.

Use Numbers to Add Credibility

Specifics, like numbers, add credibility and urgency to your titles. The can provide structure for your information, or they can make hard things seem easier. Specificity enables people to engage the idea in a more concrete way, and gives bounded limits and certainty on time frames as well.

Pique The Reader’s Curiosity (But Withhold The Answer)

Using statements that seem to be impossible, unusual contrasts, or paradoxes can make readers curious about what is in the book. The idea is to make a claim or statement that seems a little far-fetched or fantastical, but promises delivery. This is very popular now with headline writing on sites like UpWorthy and ViralNova.

The iconic recent example of this with books is one we already mentioned, The 4-Hour Workweek. Everyone wants to know how to work 4 hours a week, except it seems impossible, so you pick up the book to see what that guy is talking about.

Use Metaphors or Symbols Associated With The Themes in Your Book

Humans think in symbol and metaphor. Using these powerful devices can help you create a strong title that really resonates.

The iconic metaphor-based series is “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” The title signals the warm, nurturing feeling that our culture associates with chicken soup and connects it to something else–stories that nurture your soul.

Use Alliteration

Alliteration is the use of the same letter at the beginning of all or most of the words in your title. This makes things easier for humans to remember.

Alter a Popular Phrase

This is common in book titles and tends to work well—taking a famous phrase and altering it in a way that makes sense for you book. This works because it’s close to something people know, but not exactly the same thing.

Slang can work really well, especially if it’s used in a way that is non-intuitive but also novel.

Try cliche formats (or reversing them)

There are a ton of book-naming tropes that can work well if used correctly:

Done poorly, these kinds of titles can seem cliched and cloying instead of fresh. This technique is best used when it offers a twist—but isn’t so far out that it confuses the reader.

Consider Coining a Phrase or New Word

This is very helpful, especially if you want to create a brand or company or extended product line out of your book, or brand a character name. The problem with this is that it’s not an easy thing to do. Many authors try to create new words; few succeed, so try this sparingly. The most important element of this technique is that the word is easy to say and understand.

Use Amazon/Goodreads/Wikipedia For Inspiration

If you’re feeling stuck, you can always go look at how other books are named.

Use Copywriting Manuals For Ideas

If you are truly stuck and cannot think of anything, read some books about copywriting. They are not specifically about book titling, but copywriters have to understand the sell triggers, and they will give you tons and tons of examples. These are three of the best out there:

Step 3: Check Copyright, Trademark, Keywords and Popularity

First off, let me very clear about this: you cannot copyright titles.

Technically, you can call your book “To Kill A Mockingbird” or “Lord Of The Rings” or even “The Holy Bible.”

That being said, copying a popular book makes it VERY hard for your book to stand out, and pretty much guarantees a lot of negative reviews from people who are not getting the book they expected.

That being said, you can trademark a title, if it is part of a larger brand. For example, the term “Bulletproof” is trademarked in the health and fitness space by Dave Asprey. You (probably) can’t title a book “The Bulletproof Diet” because it infringes on a trademark (not the copyright ).

If this is confusing, and you have a book title you think might be a trademark infringement, then talk to an IP attorney.

Also, make sure you check that the title and subtitle have the right keywords you want to address your market, and aligns with any domain and brand issues you have.

Step 4: Pick Your Favorites

At this point, you should have a long list of title ideas. Once that’s done, you can move on to the next step: picking your titles.

I cannot emphasize how important this next step is:

Everyone has opinions on book titles. Most of those opinions are stupid and wrong.

Even people who get PAID to come up with book titles (editors, publishers, etc.) are usually bad at it.

Here’s a great test as to whether or not you have a good book title: imagine one of your readers talking about your book at a party to other people.

If you can see them confidently saying the book title aloud, and the people listening nodding and immediately either understanding what the book is about based on that (and perhaps a sentence or two of explanation), or asking for a further explanation because it sounds interesting, then you’ve got a good title.

If you imagine any other reaction than this one, you need to re-think your title, and probably change it.

Remember, so much of book marketing boils down to word of mouth, and word of mouth is all about people signaling things to other people. You want your book title to inspire and motivate the right people to talk about it, because it lets them signal the right things to their friends.

Test #2: (optional) Test Actual Clicks

Here’s one of the keys to testing your titles: test both the main title and subtitle and test them in many different iterations. Usually what you’ll find is most things test about the same, while there will be one thing that clearly tests better as a title and another that clearly tests best as a subtitle.

This is a great piece about the step-by-step process of using Google Adwords to test a title.

If you have a large audience already, you can also use Survey Monkey .

For real customer feedback, I recommend using Pickfu .

I would also recommend Google Survey . This is real market testing of real people and can be done fairly cheaply.

How Not To Test Your Book Title

Most of the things authors do to test their titles are very, very bad.

For example, posting on social media is NOT TESTING YOUR TITLE. In fact, posting on social media is about the worst possible way to test a title.

Why is this?

Well, your social media friends are probably not your audience, and a tweet about the title won’t help you. And even worse, everyone on your social media has an agenda relative to the author that will often put you off-kilter.

Friends and family don’t work. Generally speaking, they want to make you happy. They don’t want to give you an objective answer. Or they want to make sure you look good, but they don’t know what will actually make you look good.

Furthermore, oftentimes colleagues will be critical—because they are jealous. It happens a lot, and they will give you bad advice , even if only unconscious.

And some authors will go to their marketing teams for title advice, which can often lead you way off-kilter. Do you know the saying that a camel is a horse designed by committee? When you start getting opinions from lots of different sources, you get the “camel effect” hardcore.

If you’re doing a non-fiction book, yes, probably so.

The way we like to frame it is that the title is the hook, and the subtitle is the explanation. The subtitle is the promise of the book.

Books need a subtitle if it’s necessary to contextualize the subject alluded to in the main title. Typically, the subtitle tells the reader some combination of what the book’s central premise is, who the book is for, and what promise the book delivers on or need it meets.

Some examples where subtitles help contextualize the title and deliver the promise of the implied title:

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IRSC Libraries Home

MLA Style Guide, 7th Edition: About MLA

About this Guide ...

Always refer to the MLA Manual for authorized examples of citations.

Some of the citations in this guide are taken from the MLA Manual; others are recommendations from IRSC librarians.

Always ask your instructor for specific directions pertaining to your assignment.

writing book titles

A copy of this manual is available in all IRSC campus libraries.

MLA References

The standard citation style guide for the humanities, especially languages and literature, is the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 7th edition, 2010. The American Modern Language Association (MLA) publishes the manual. It is commonly referred to it as the "MLA Manual".

The English departments at IRSC recommend MLA format for papers written in these fields.

Two types of citations are included in most research papers: citations within the text of the document and a list of reference citations at the end of the paper.

In-Text Citations:

In-text citations appear in the body of your paper. They identify your use of an idea from one of your sources. The MLA Manual uses the author-page citation system for in-text citations. 

Reference Citations:

Information about the sources you use in your work are included as a separate list at the end of the paper.  The MLA Manual suggests using the title, Works Cited , for the list.

Any source information that you provide in an in-text citation must correspond to a source in your Works Cited page.

Note on Web Publications

MLA no longer requires URLs in MLA citations. However, your instructor may wish you to include the URL as part of the citation so that your source may be easily located. MLA suggests that the URL appear in angle brackets after the date of access.

Potter, Michelle. "Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Life." LiteraryTraveler.com  n.d. Web. 22 Mar 2016. <http://www.literarytraveler.com/articles/zora-neale-hurston-a-literary-life/>

Ask A Librarian

How Do You Properly Format Your Book Titles?

Do you ever stop writing mid-sentence to ask yourself if you have correctly formatted your book title?

This is a fair question, and it demands a thoughtful answer. Since you want to deliver quality work, there are a few things you need to know about book title formatting. Wondering, “Are book titles underlined?” or “Are book titles italicized?” or further “Does it matter if my book title is italicized or underline?” only translates that as a reader or writer, you are paying attention to the nitty-gritty of your craft.

For some time now, or rather since the invention of computers and replacement of typewriters, there has been an ongoing debate if writers should use italics or underlines their book titles. And this begs the question;

Table of Contents

Are book titles italicized?

The short answer to this is yes. There is a general rule (like a rule of thumb for writing book titles) that states that titles of more significant works should be italicized while those of smaller tasks should use quotation marks. Larger books have chapters, but also short works are subdivided into smaller parts. This, therefore, demands that the short texts are branded as more significant works and the titles should appear in italics.

The italics rule applies to both non-fictional and fictional works that have individual chapters.

Are book titles underlined?

For handwritten books, it is nearly impossible to correctly design your tiles in italics (compared to a computer). It is, therefore, an acceptable rule to underline such works for both small and large books.

While underlining a title is not advised, especially when doing a professional piece of work, a majority of readers take your book more seriously if you employ italics in your book title. The italics appearance is more futuristic while underlining only looks like an old-style of formatting book titles.

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How to Create Brilliant Book Titles (With Examples)

writing book titles

If you don’t believe me, look up  First Hundred Million  by editor E. Haldeman-Julius. He explains that changing just the book title can rocket a book from selling 6,000 copies a year to 50,000 copies a year. 

In this post I’m going to give you a list of great book titles, but I’m also going to give you some information that will help you choose the best title for  your  book. 

The title is what people see first. It’s what they remember when they go home to look the book up. It’s what they say when they recommend the book to others. It’s the most important marketing decision that a writer can make because, while a good title can’t make a book popular, it can certainly keep a book from getting sold. 

Yes, a book’s cover art is important, but there are some books that, once readers see the title, think, “Hmm, now that sounds interesting.” And they pick the book up. 

That  is what we’re after. Cover artists and publishers can decide on the art, but  you  are responsible for  your  book’s title – especially in the case of self-publishing. 

A Good Book Title Is: 

Your title may not contain all of these characteristics, but it should at least be a combination of two or three. 

Titling Nonfiction Books  

writing book titles

For example: if you tell someone the title of your nonfiction book and they have to ask what it is about, you probably need to change the title. 

If you have a great eye-catching title that doesn’t quite get to the point, consider a subtitle . 

Discoverability is the “Good Title” characteristic most important for nonfiction works. Keywords are essential. You want your book to pop right up when someone types in their problem. If you want to tell someone how to plant a garden, consider titling your book, “How to Plant a Garden.”  

Check to be sure that your chosen title isn’t already used because that can create unnecessary confusion and competition.   

It wouldn’t surprise me if “How to Plant a Garden” is already taken, so consider adding or shifting around the words. This is also where subtitling could be considered. 

Examples:   

Making the title unique without tarnishing its discoverability is probably one of the best things a nonfiction writer can do. 

Dale Carnegie achieved this with his bestselling novel, “ How to Win Friends and Influence People .” This title is much less boring than “How to Be a Leader.” 

Titling Fiction (Novels & Short Stories)

writing book titles

Fiction differs from nonfiction in that titles should rarely get straight to the point. They instead should be mysterious and thought provoking, inducing curiosity. Fiction titles should lead a reader to pick up your book, not because they need a solution to a problem or information on a matter, but because they are curious.  

Now, whether they buy or not depends on the content, but the title is what provokes them. 

I also offer advice on writing the inside of your book (imagine that!).

If you want advice on novel plotting, characterization, pacing, theme or a hundred other topics, you should definitely check out my post on HOW TO WRITE A BESTSELLING NOVEL.

Click that link above to have your mind blown with novel possibilities.

Titles come in all shapes and forms. 

Single words: 

Poetry: 

Famous Sayings: 

Quotes From Within the Book: 

Wordplay: 

Opposing Subjects: 

There are hundreds of examples. Simply look at your favorite book and ask yourself why that title sounds interesting. Now, think of how the author might have come up with that. Use that same technique. 

How to Come Up With a Title 

writing book titles

1. Brainstorm. 

You are a writer. You are your own best source of creativity. Your best ideas are going to come from inside your pretty little head, so use it. Sit down and think of all the interesting titles that come to your mind. Ask yourself what your book is truly about, and give an answer in three or four words. Use lines of poetry. Use song lyrics. Use quotes from your own book. Look up title generators and, while you may not use the exact title, you can find inspiration by combining different words and such. Here’s a list of the best title generators , and they are organized by genre. Ask your friends and family for ideas. Use  every  resource available to you.  

2. Write them all down.

Do this for a couple of days or until your creativity bank has run completely dry, then go back through and pick out the top ten.  

3. Next, take it down to five.

Use the requirements listed under “Good Book Title” in the first portion of the article. Is it catchy? Memorable? Easy to find on the internet? 

4. You have two choices at this point.

Rules to Remember 

writing book titles

The moment you’ve been waiting for. I’ve composed a list of titles that I’ve come up with over the years by using the exact same tips and rules I’ve given to you. (Sometimes, interesting titles even inspire writers to write something based around it, and how awesome is that?) Feel free to use these, but let me know because I’d love to see if any of my ideas have helped you.  

A List of 44 Great Original Titles

I have no idea if any of these titles have already been used. I hope not, but do your research just in case. Good luck and be sure to check out our writing courses . 

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108 comments

Hey Christian, great article and thanks for the mention of the Book Title Generators list.

Superb ideas, I am already brainstorming. May be there should be an activity – give a book title to someone and ask them to imagine a brief plot of the book

Hello Christian, I very much enjoyed your article. I am retired ENT surgeon and written my autobiography. Please any catchy book title. Thanks Sat Mehta

How about: The Life of Sat Mehta Sat Mehta: Tales of an EMT Surgeon

ENTer the theatre

Great article . Any suggestions for my upcoming book on violence again hospitals health workers This is from India Thank you

Cool thoughts. Thanks for providing that list to peruse. The one I like is “The Sound of Light”; has that synesthesia thing going for it.

Yeah, a bit like Terry Pratchett’s ‘The Colour of Magic’

All are marvelous. But, “Heaven’s Demons and Earth’s Angel’s” sound more Superb to me. Great Job.

Hello, there. Thank you for the… 5 posts (maybe more?) I’ve read so far. Honestly, a forced brainstorm is a nightmare. However, these 44 Title ideas are a lifesaver: it really helped me brainstorm! Less than half of my books had names. Now, I’ve got a good list of names to all of them, all thanks to you. My favorites were #2, #4, #19, #23, #31, #39 (they helped me create new original titles). Keep up the awesome work!

Hi there! I will take just any good idea. I’m writing a script about anorexia but don’t want to just name it “Anorexia” because that is very bold and obvious for a title. I’d really appreciate some help. Thanks!

Hi! I’m not the author of this post, but I had some ides what I saw this. I have a friend who struggled with (not very severe) anorexia, and when she said some things they really struck hard, so here are a few ideas I had: Empty, Ignore the Hunger, The Hunger is an Addiction. this may help you come up with some ideas of your own!

Lies of A Reflection

Mirrors sometimes lie

The Weight Of Hunger

I know that carrot will hurt me.

Am new to writing and this book is long overdue. and Am writing a book about my life, my struggles, my pain, my loss, my victory, where I am at present and what ot took. It is basically about rising from the ashes, irrespective of. I want a book to enpower, motivate, mentor, and encourage people especially targeted at women folk and anyone having a hard time, facing difficult times and cant really see light at the end of the tunnel. I dont want use obvious names. Any suggestions? Anyone?

My Becoming

“My Becoming” sounds a lot like Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” though

Hi, there! i’m writing a short story about a topic that is pretty close to me, mental illness to be pretty exact. i don’t want my title to be bland and cliche, i want it to pop out and catch attention, and with the topic i’m writing about i do not want the title to imply that the story is a joke, any suggestions? thank you!

Lemon tears?

Depression?

Hi, I am thinking of writing a book on parenting on substance abuse and my target group should be the youths. Please is it possible to help me with a nice short and catchy title of the book. I would be glad you did. Thank you

“The Windrunner” is too similar to “The Kiterunner” IMO, which is a bestseller.

The High Life

Great article. I don’t usually have any trouble coming up with a title and I rarely come up with more ideas than 2-3 per book. I really like some of your suggestions at the end, especially 2,3,4,6,19,20,22,37 and 41.

Hi, Good article. I thinking of writing a book about my struggles, and how I’m overcoming them one step at a time by the help of the most high. Am always writing, short stories of my daily life & quotes. Keep doing your awesome work. Any suggestions. Thank you.

For SOFIA STERLING: How about, OUCH !! with a front cover picture of a fire-walker stepping on a bed of hot coals, with a subtitle of ”DARING TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP? just a thought, good luck .. Gerry. ‘PS, do not mention God or any sort of religious words, a HUGE turn-off’.___________ (2) CHIZOBA ETUKA. ”Needles do more than, get to the point”….. (3) ASHLEY… I might have exaggerated a little when I said I was sane…. (4)SHO. How about, ” My journey to the next station” showing a picture of a rail tunnel, rail lines and the light at the end…. (5)SAMREEN… ”Slimming, without showing my ribs”

Wow thank you so much for this article! I find this very useful!

Scripting a Hunger Ignored

THANKSfor the kick in the pants you got me going on a name that pops”TEACH YOUR DINOSAUR TO FLY” is the one that I settled upon

i’m writting a book on answer to all absurd hypothetical questions. could you pls help me get the title.

For YASWANT, a title I can come up with for you, The Ifs, Ands, or Buts. Good luck!

Wow those are some good titles there! Thanks for the article Fox! These are some of the hardest points, though, to a story! Title can make or break your book XD. I find that making titles comes easy to me though. And yes a title can generate a whole story just from it.

Thomas Rogers that is a fine title to a book! It kinda says, “Oh I want to see what this is about”

Good luck on your titles all who are writing some now!

Hi, I wrote a story of my school days and my love in school days. I was not a good student. All girls used to hate me. All teachers had have frustrated due to my bad behaviour. But she was in love with me. But due to some reason we didn’t married. Now she is married with some one else. Me to married and living happily. My wife’s love turned me to forget my first love. Wife’s sacrifices became greater. And in school days all opinion about me turned into positive at the end of school days. This is a what about my story. Kindly suggest me effective tittle.

For SHRIKRISHNA, might I suggest, Can You See Me? Good Luck!

Echoes Of My Past or Echoes Of that Boy I Use To Be or Past Opportunities Forgotten or Affairs of My Youth

The Missed Chance or My Missed Chance

Imperfect me

Thank You for writing this article. It gave me great ideas

Hi everyone 🙂 I am embarking on my first book and it is an erotic classy novel part fiction but based on life experiences. In a nutshell about meeting a soulmate only twice in life but impacted forever….the love wont die…the passion is insane….what should I name it?

What about, “Passion” or, “Only Twice?”

Think about this one too, “Love is for eternity,” or “Love is Immortal.”

Contact me at [email protected] if you like anything and want more, because that’s what I do…all of you people.

Sin and Sinuous

HI guys I am writing a book which is a thriller genre and i was searching for good book titles and i you know went into some sites and i was not 100% satisfied.. But this site is the best like i have made over 5 books and i am going to publish it and Thank god I saw this site… I have got good titles… Awesome Keep going on!

A wonderful piece you got there. It’s been super helpful

I am working on a book with a tittle SLEEPINESS MY ENEMY. This is a motivational book which i would like to recommend it to students and to every worker because sleepiness has hindered many students a comfortable study.Please i need help, i want to know if the book can make sense

Hello! I am writing a story similar to “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan in the way that I am writing about my different uses of languages, slangs, and accents I have unknowingly used throughout my life. It’s going to be about how I have used many different ways of speaking such as the way I speak to my peers, my family, and in school

If you don’t have a title already, it could be, Word of Mouth or Word of My Mouth

Hello, a great article I was looking for. Really interesting and informative. It helped to brainstorm great ideas for titles. Thank you for sharing all these things

thanks for the good ideas I am writing Arabic story’s about Continents of the world, Antarctica will be the most important one , I am thinking to call it Mama Antarctica , is it good one or shall I search for anther . I have a story called Mama olive it will be published within a week … so I shoos Mama Antarctica . hope to hear from you

I’m writing a story on elves, faeries, warlocks, wizards, troll, and so on but I dint know what to name could you please help me? thank you.

The Untold Stories Of The World? Good luck!

Could it be, The Secrets of The Woods

Hi my name is Layal Jaffal and I really like your ideas it is really good but I think you should move to the next step my book is about horror, love, fear, jealousy, friendship, and confidence

A good name Evelyn Mae is eds

Thanks for the book title generators list. It really helped me a lot.

Dark days under a black sun…using that ..thanks so much

Hello all, my name is Jasmine. I am a young writer and let me say, this piece helped me a ton. I am currently writing a love story, it is part fantasy, but the reality of drugs, gangs, and life tests the strength of their love. Any title ideas? Thanks!

Reality is the lie in truth? (I’m not the best at titles)

I am trying to come up with a title for a story about a young boy overcoming his negative self concept and learning to love himself.

By identifying the positive qualities within

I loved the ideas! I am a very young writer, so these really helped me! I am trying to write a book about an older teenage girl who has a gambling addict, and I thought up some ideas. I’d really like your feedback on them! “The Dealing of Poker Chips” or “The Sound Made of Nothing” If you guys have any other title ideas I’d love to hear them.

It should really be “The Dealing of Cards” but, in my book there’s a twist, so I wanted it to be poker chips instead of cards

So I’m writing this book about how a mother’s mistake affect her child’s love life any help on the title?

Hello! I’m currently writing a book, it’s about a girlfriend looking for her lost boyfriend. Their childhood friends help, and secrets reveal along the way, it’s romance but it’s also a mystery. Any titles you have in mind? Thank you!

Whom I Love

Two Roads is already a book. I was reading just a few minutes before I read this article. It is by Joseph Bruchac. I just wanted to let anybody who was thinking of using the name know.

1-My mother left me at 6 months, rejected me 7 times. 2-Trusted a family member, but turn out to be my kidnaper and molester 3-I saved my father’s life and health when everyone abandon him. 4-I visited a UNHCR office for 18 months 6-6pm Mon-Friday to get a chance to come overseas. Yes am here. Please help me to find chapter tittles for the above numbers. Thank you million times.

2-Hidden Horridness

4-I’m not sure I don’t know what a UNCHR office is

I hope this helps

My New Home? Good Luck!!!

Hey, I was wondering if anyone could help me come up with a name for my book. It is an adventure/fantasy book about a girl named Fern Griffin and her friend Nitza Sage. They find an underground maze in their town and a bunch of stuff happened and their are witches and dragons and stuff. There is a blade called the Snakeroot blade that takes a big part in the book and I was thinking something related to that? I don’t know, anything helps. Thanks!

Snakeroots and Secrets?

I’m writing a story about a girl who meets who she thinks is her soulmate and starts a new amazing job. Basically, her life is going great. But then her boyfriend starts acting weird and she finds out that he has been cheating. So she gets drunk, and buys a gun. She gets home and catches him in the act and shoots. The neighbors here the commotion and call the cops, she gets arrested. She then appears in court, where the reader finds out that she did not, in fact, kill her boyfriend but shot him in the arm. She is found guilty of attempted murder and the book ends there. All title ideas are welcome and criticism is greatly appreciated.

Loved No Longer Not The One Wrong Things Soulmates Hope I gave you some ideas!

Thank you so much that was very helpful but i decided to go with the title ‘Guilty’ because that is the last word in the story.

Trying to give a title to my war/romance story. A girl called Adelle Yorke gets separated from her brother Harris and their parents and she has to live with a nasty farmer and his horrible wife. They have a son, Karl Blake, who she falls in love with. They run away together to help wounded soldiers. Harris turns up and they learn that the Blake’s farm has been bombed. Karl, Adelle and Harris return to the city to Adelle and Harris’ parents house, but it no longer exists. They then search for Adelle’s parents and end up in a German camp. They manage to escape with a few other people from the camp. The group sticks together and gets smaller as people find their families. Finally only Adelle, Karl and Harris remain, still searching. The story ends there, but I may change it. Will be majorly grateful if someone could give me a few ideas. Thanks guys!

I think thats a perfect place to leave it and could it be called ‘Remember Me’ Good Luck! 🙂

I don’t know, but the searching thing seems to play a big part. However, when they go to their destinations, there’s nothing good awaiting them. What about something about searching (like ‘Searching for Nothing’ or something like that)?

Actually yeah thata much better than mine.

I’m writing a “how to” book. Guide for Creating a Saint Joseph Altar. Seems to boring. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. [email protected] Thank you Viva San Giuseppe

Well I read somewhere that St. Joseph’s colours are gold and red and that the flower that is associated with him is the lilly so you could do something to do with that. Hope this helps. 🙂

Hi, great article. So here’s the thing. My story is fantasy slash mystery revolving around a girl who finds her life trajectory change when she finds on her sixteenth birthday that she infact is one of the 12 heirs to the kingdom of Atricia. This kingdom lies hidden in the south pole and connects different parallel lands where all possible creatures that you can think exist. There is a romantic twist to it and the story line is quite humourous and light hearted but filled with unexpected turns. Any suggestions? Advices and critics are welcome too. I am a very young writer so that will be of great help. Thank you.

Hi i want help i am writing story about bad attitude so please someone help me to choose title name i think WORLD REALIZE AFTER LOST EVERYTHING is good or bad?

I personally don’t understand the ‘WORLD REALIZE AFTER LOST EVERYTHING’ but it is your book and you should go with whatever you think is right. I’m not exactly sure of what your book is about but i thought of ‘The Cost Of A Bad Attitude’ or something like that.

Looking for a powerful title for an exceptional book for the carer of someone with Alzheimers disease. Its very detailed practical and helpful advice. A reader will get to see the sufferer from a new perspective and understand his/her actions and therefore react appropriately. Much info also on where to get help etc. Its a guide, or companion but trying to go beyond the common A guide or companion for the caregiver. Thank you.

Hi, I am searching for a title for a story of my life. Basically I was raised in a children’s home from the age of 6 to 16 years with my 4 siblings whom my father paid to keep us all together. (My Mother walked out on us all for another man). My mother visited us twice in10 years and we never saw her again as she went on and had another 5 kids!. The cruelty endured at times was sadistic inhumane and cruel. I made a vow somehow that I would do good with my life. I secretly applied to go to college, got accepted, then went on to university. Eventually went in the corporate world, worked my way up to the top. Cannot think of a title, so if anyone can help with a title, I will be incredibly grateful. Many thanks J

Hi am writing a story about a girl who has a problem with both math and God but through her tutor he teaches her how to be able to love and trust God and also become better at math. Can anybody give me a suggestion . Thanks

-Rising up – I am still standing -Applied -At the top

Hi I got an enormous number of tips in suggesting a good novel title, I believe now I can solve my own task Much Thanks

Is there somewhere I can go to test a book title?

Im writing an Avengers fanfic where the main character becomes the daughter of Sam Wilson (Old Falcon, New Captain America) she has the powers of teleportation, control over the elements and creation of forcefield. Her name is Sapphire Angel.

“The Stars Have Eyes” is a work of science fiction by Thomas Farmer published in 2018.

Hey! I am writing a short story about this group of friends on spring break. and then one of the friends snaps and kills everyone else and ends with none of that happened in real-time. she’s in a mental institute and is writing in a journal. ANy ideas for a title. anything would be appreciated

Great write up. Gave a lot of insights Thank you

Hey guys… I’m writing an Anthology. It consists of poems about passion, strength, nature and being firm but I’m stuck for a title. Would really appreciate if anyone can help me out

Hi, I am writing a book on how to become a rueda de casino (dance) teacher. It contains the standard syllabus and new perspectives. What should I name it?

I have been reading posts regarding this topic and this post is one of the most interesting and informative one I have read. Thank you for this!

if I have a title named ” The tribes of plant foxes” and I need to shorten it… does anyone have any ideas?

Tribes of the ploxes

Sparkling titles, wonderful guide

I’m writing a book with best friend not sure what to name it we have a lame title called lost in the woods but its not good enough it doesent describe our story they dont even get lost in the woods I NEED HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you for this thought-provoking list of titles. I will research as you said, to see if they’ve already been used. I design custom and pre-designed book covers.

I’m just a beginner l now where to start compiling a suitable title for my book thank you 💝 this is a superb

Hi – I am putting together a “coffee table” type book of a collection of my deceased brother’s art. His focus was ceramics of all kinds – wheel, raku, hand thrown, sculpture, etc., and also water colour paintings. I have written a short bio of his life leading up to his career as the head of the art fundamentals department of a college, but the book is mostly pictures of his work which collectors have in both Canada and the United States. The ideas and suggestions on this site are great, but if anyone would like to throw out a thought or two I would be delighted.

How do you find this title and subtitle:

The Rise of Ninja Gods

How Is Covid-19 Changing The World?

THANK Y0OU FOR THE IDEAS!!!!!!!!!!!!

LOOKIMG FOR A TITLE… A RICH BEAUTFIFUL GIRL WHO MADE BAD BHOICES..THEN THANKS TO A PILGRIMAGE TRANSFORM HER LIFE INTO A POSITIVE BLISSFUL RENEWAL OF HER LIFE

Hi, there! i’m writing a motivational book. I want suggestions for a catchy book that pops up and grab readers attention.

Any suggestions please? thank you!

writing book titles

Every writer NEEDS this book.

It’s a guide to writing the pivotal moments of your novel.

Whether writing your book or revising it, this will be the most helpful book you’ll ever buy.

writing book titles

How to Write Book Titles

writing book titles

You’ve managed to cobble together 100K words of sheer brilliance, but now you must tackle the hardest task. Writing the book title. How do you write book titles, anyway?

How do you distill all that unbridled greatness of your book into just a few words that convey the depth, emotion, setting, time, and character of your novel? While also being memorable and not being the same as any other book that already exists?

Ha ha ha. Super easy.

Don’t worry if you struggle with how to write book titles. You aren’t alone. Most people do. But today we’re going to look at some ideas and I’ll offer some tips that will hopefully make it a little easier.

writing book titles

The importance of a book title

Obviously, your title is one of the first ways your book will be judged. I know you’ve heard the old saying, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ but that is one of the most patently untrue statements to ever be uttered about books.

Books are judged by their cover and their title. I do it. You do it. We all do it. The publishing industry dedicates entire teams to studying book covers and titles based on the idea that we do, in fact, judge books by their covers. So this is important.

Would Pride and Prejudice be the classic we know it as today if it had been called by its original title, First Impressions ? Maybe. But probably not.

writing book titles

What’s in a book title?

A book title has a lot of heavy lifting to do as it should convey, at least in part, the type of story it’s representing. The age group, the genre, the tone, and the theme can all be illustrated through a well thought-out title.

When you hear the title, The Devil Wears Prada , you can be pretty sure this isn’t a middle grade book with a feel good message. Just like the title Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day probably tells you this isn’t going to be a fast-paced political thriller. So how do you write a book title?

Below are a few strategies you can use to help you come up with that killer book title.

Use a character name

Your main character is already the star of the show, why not give them the front cover too? For this to work, it helps if your character has an unusual or stand out name. It might not work as well if your MC is named John Smith, but that also doesn’t mean it couldn’t work. The title could just be the name, or it could be combined with some other aspect of your story.

Some famous books that make use the protagonist’s name include:

Use the name of your setting

Just like your characters, it could be the place that defines your novel and would make for a good title. It could be something more general like the name of a city or a country, or something more specific like the name of a café or a river that is prominent in your story. Maybe it takes place on a boat or in an airplane and you could use the names of those things.

Some famous books that make use of the setting in their title include:

Use a time setting

Your setting doesn’t have to be a physical place; it could also be a time, be it a specific year or time of day.

Examples of books that use this kind of title include:

Use literally what it’s about

Sometimes we get a little caught up in the idea of a clever title when really, the best one is literally what your book is about.

What do I mean? Consider these examples where the title is exactly what the book is about:

Use a quote or a line from a poem or song

Check out the parameters around this and what is considered public domain , but you can make use of existing works to name your books too.

These famous titles all borrow lines from old books, poems, and plays:

how to write a book title

Tips for naming books

One word titles.

While one word titles are popular, in a world of SEO (search engine optimization)*, it might not be the best choice for your novel. If someone goes to search for your book with a single word, they’re going to have a hard time finding it amongst the millions of other results they’ll get when they do a search. So a title that is at least three or four words might be more beneficial for you in the long term.

Unique titles

Do a search to see if anyone else is using the same title as you are. As with above, if someone goes to search for your book, you want them to find your book and not someone else’s. It might be less of a concern if a book with the same title is in a different genre, but it also might be better to come up with something else.

Consider your genre

Take a look at the titles of the bestselling books in your genre. Can you find any similarities in the words, tone, or structure that they use? For example, in the fantasy genre, the following structure has been popular for a number of years:

The ______ of _________ and ___________

how to write a book title

How to brainstorm your title

Okay, so you’ve read all the tips above, and still nothing is coming to you. That’s okay. Sit down with a piece of paper or open one on your computer and answer these questions to help get your thoughts flowing:

Write a few words or sentences for each of the points above and then from that start brainstorming a list of titles. Write down anything that comes into your head, no matter how terrible it seems right now. Just let the ideas flow until you can’t think of anything else.

Now you can use that list to start refining. Does something jump out at you right away that might work? Or can you combine two titles to make up your ideal one?

Once you have a short list, poll some people to see what catches their intention. Ask them which title makes them want to learn more about the story. Ask them what genre they think the title represents.

Keep repeating the above process until something clicks. Don’t worry—you’ll get there!

Putting it all together

Coming up with a title is only half the battle, though. Okay, more like 1% of the battle. The real journey all us writers must take is, well, writing the dang book. And trust me, there are a lot more words in a book than a title.

Don’t worry, though, because Dabble’s got your back. Dabble is the best novel-writing software out there, designed to help writers just like you write your book. From a sleek, modern look that lets you focus on the writing to tools that will make your characters and plot better, Dabble makes writing your story easier.

Writing a book is hard enough! Don’t let the software you’re writing with make it any harder. Click here to try all of Dabble’s premium features for free for 14 days, no credit card required. Save that time typing in your credit card to type a few extra words in your book.

Nisha J Tuli is a YA and adult fantasy and romance author who specializes in glitter-strewn settings and angst-filled kissing scenes. Give her a feisty heroine, a windswept castle, and a dash of true love and she’ll be lost in the pages forever. When Nisha isn’t writing, it’s probably because one of her two kids needs something (but she loves them anyway). After they’re finally asleep, she can be found curled up with her Kobo or knitting sweaters and scarves, perfect for surviving a Canadian winter.

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writing book titles

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Read. learn. create..

Do your main characters tend to steal the show in your novels? Don’t worry, that’s not a trick question. They should be doing that. In fact, you should be putting lots of thought and development into protagonists because that’s who the story is about. But how much thought have you given to your tertiary characters? They can be important too.If you want to breathe life into your stories, it's time to give tertiary characters a little love. These small but mighty players can add depth, complexity, and a fresh perspective to your plot. They give you the chance to offer comic relief, a dash of wisdom, and just some good old fashioned friendship. 

Sidekick characters. The unsung hero of so many stories. They're the Robin to your Batman, the Luigi to your Mario, the Samwise Gamgee to your Frodo Baggins. They're the ones who are always there to lend a helping hand, crack a joke, or provide some much-needed emotional relief. And let's be real, sometimes they don’t go unsung. Sometimes they're more interesting and lovable than the main characters themselves and end up stealing the show. 

Secrets. They’re the lifeblood of any relationship. If you aren’t keeping at least a few secrets from your friends and loved ones, are you really living? Okay, maybe not. Secrets in real life can be a little tricky—we all have them—but they have a way of blowing up in our faces, depending on how big they are. Your characters are really no different. Only when you’re keeping secrets in fiction, you can make them even darker and deeper than any you might ever have in real life. (Hopefully, I don’t really know your life, so maybe not.) Secrets might not be something you’ve specifically thought about when you’re drafting a story. They’re the kind of thing that often happen organically, but you can actually make use of character secrets to make your stories better. Adding them with intention can help increase tension, make twists hit that much harder, and keep your reader engaged. 

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Should You Underline Or Italicise Book Titles?

Maybe you’re writing your author bio or a blog post, or maybe you need to refer to a book in your own story.

But when it comes to typing in that book title, you find yourself hovering between the italics and underline buttons, unsure which to choose.

In most cases, there’s a straightforward answer to this conundrum, which means the general rule is nice and easy to remember once you know it.

Read on to get the lowdown on representing book titles in your writing.

Italicise or Underline Book Titles: The General Rule

Unless you’re following a style guide that specifically tells you otherwise, you should generally italicise book titles.

This is the rule you’ll find in many style guides, including the Chicago Manual of Style , Harvard referencing style and the Modern Language Association (MLA) .

These style guides are mainly targeted at academic writing, but if you look at magazines, periodicals and other edited print or digital publications, you’ll notice that most also italicise book titles.

If you happen across some older documents, you might see book titles underlined, as this used to be the standard. But underlining fell out of favour as computer technology improved and formatting and style options became more varied.

In contemporary practice, underlining is generally not considered a standard way of distinguishing book titles in your writing.

Having said that, there are style guides that prefer enclosing book titles in quotation marks over italics, so it’s always a good idea to check this. But if nothing is specified, italicization is the best fallback.

This might all seem a bit arbitrary, but ultimately, formatting book titles correctly is a matter of producing a professional, consistent piece of writing.

Following the expectations of specific publishers and publications is a big part of a writer’s role, and styling book titles correctly is one way of showing you can adhere to standard writing practices.

writing book titles

Why Does It Matter?

As writers, many of us are probably fairly pedantic when it comes to grammar , punctuation and style (I know I am!).

But just in case you’ve read this far and are still wondering why it really matters if you italicise or underline (or do anything at all), here’s some food for thought.

Distinguishing book titles in some way is important to avoid confusion. Many books have titles that aren’t automatically recognisable as book titles.

If titles are included in the flow of a sentence without any indication, they can pull readers up as they try to read the title as part of the sentence.

When you produce a piece of writing, you no doubt hope your audience will read it closely, think about it and enjoy it. But nothing throws a reader out of a piece of writing like incorrect or out-of-place punctuation and formatting.

If you underline book titles, you’ll potentially confuse readers and likely distract them from the content of your piece. They’ll start to think not about what you’re saying, but about the things that stand out as odd or incorrect!

The risk of confusion is particularly strong if you’re writing for digital publication . Readers typically expect that an underline on the web will be a hyperlink, so underlining book titles here is something to avoid.

For all these reasons, it’s in your best interests to present book titles accurately in your writing. It’ll help you come across as professional, and will make your piece clearer and easier to understand.

Are There Exceptions to the General Rule?

Beyond the case of a style guide that asks for something other than italics, there are few exceptions or special cases to the rule of italicising book titles.

One exception would be the very rare case where you’re writing by hand, because it’s pretty hard to represent italics in handwriting.

You might also need to submit writing through a web form, where it isn’t always possible to include formatting like italics.

In this case, sometimes there might be instructions that give you an alternative, but otherwise, enclosing titles in asterisks is a common way of indicating italics in this case.

Using all caps for the title is another option that’s commonly used on social media. Social media platforms are informal , so it isn’t as important to do things in a standard way here. As long as your meaning is clear, no one is likely to pull you up.

In the above cases, it’s often best to avoid using quotation marks as an alternative. Because quotation marks are used to signify other forms of writing (which we’ll get to in a minute), this could make things unclear.

Another special case you might come across is a chunk of italicised text that has a book title within it. In this case, you would remove the italics from the internal title so it stands out.

When quoting from a source that doesn’t italicise a book title, it’s generally considered acceptable to change titles in the quote so they’re italicised to match the style of your own work.

Again, this is really just a matter of being consistent so as not to cause confusion.

writing book titles

What About Other Kinds Of Titles?

We’ve covered book titles, but what about poems or blog posts? What about book series titles? This is where things get a bit more complicated – and where we get back to quotation marks.

If you’re italicising book titles, you’ll generally want to enclose the titles of poems, blog posts, articles or stories from an anthology in quotation marks.

Other things you’ll want to italicise include movie titles, magazine titles, and in most styles, overall website titles.

A good way to remember what needs italics and what needs quotation marks is that the pieces contained within books or larger ‘publications’ (which could include magazines, journals or blogs/websites) tend to be placed in quotation marks, while the larger publications themselves are italicised.

For example, a poem published in a literary journal would be styled: “Name of Poem”, Name of Literary Journal .

That seems easy enough, right? But what about book series titles?

Well, the jury’s out on this one. Even in the most professional of publications, you wouldn’t be surprised to see italicised or regular (roman) text when it comes to series titles.

MLA gives a confusing set of rules where the way book series titles are treated depends on whether the series title forms a part of each book’s title.

If it does, you can italicise the series title; otherwise, leave the series title in plain text.

For example, Nancy Drew is a series title you wouldn’t italicise, because the words ‘Nancy Drew’ are not in the book titles.

Harry Potter, on the other hand, could go either way, because ‘the Harry Potter series’ could mean the series about Harry Potter (the character’s name, so not italicised), or the series titled Harry Potter (a series title that also appears in the book titles, so italicised).

Talk about complicated!

Chicago’s rule of leaving series titles in plain text is much simpler and more logical. After all, a series is not a singular, physical book , and usually you’ll include the word ‘series’ in a sentence about a series, which will make things clear.

Having said all that, you probably will see series titles italicised in some places and not in others.

As long as you’re consistent and italicising doesn’t end up causing confusion between individual books and the series, it’s really up to you what you do in this case.

writing book titles

Should You Italicise Punctuation?

This is one of those things that only the most pedantic among us are likely to notice. But if you happen to get a particularly eagle-eyed reader or editor , it’s just the thing that might annoy them.

The rule for this one is that if punctuation and grammatical appendages are not a part of the original book title, they shouldn’t be italicised.

This can seem a little strange in some cases, but it’s really a sensible rule: these features are not part of the title itself, so to present them as though they are could be confusing.

In practice, this means that if you have a comma or full stop after your book title, you should turn italics off before that piece of punctuation. The same is true for dashes, question marks and any other punctuation.

A place where this rule might get confusing is when you need a possessive apostrophe with the book title. For example: ‘On Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ‘s cover …’

In this example, the possessive ‘s after ‘stone’ is not italicised because it’s not in the title itself.

Even if it strikes you as odd to have part of the word italicised and part not, it’s important to get this right to distinguish between what is and isn’t the book’s title.

All in all, the question of whether to italicise or underline a book title has a straightforward answer: italicise unless your style guide tells you otherwise.

But there are various nuances to be aware of for particular situations, or depending on the platform you’re publishing your writing on. And when it comes to other kinds of titles, it can all become a bit confusing.

The good thing is, once you’ve got it all in hand, getting italics, quotation marks and underlining right in titles and in your writing more broadly can make your writing more professional and consistent.

You’ll show publishers that you can follow formatting and style guidelines , and ensure that readers focus fully on your content.

Caylee Tierney

Caylee writes young adult fantasy fiction that explores themes including identity, truth and freedom. She is also a PhD candidate in English at the University of Tasmania. Her research sits at the intersection of popular fiction studies, publishing studies and children’s literature, and focuses on children’s fantasy fiction.

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writing book titles

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writing book titles

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Book Title Ideas: Choosing Your Own & Generators to Use

Posted on Mar 6, 2023

by Chandler Bolt

I get how frustrating it can be.

Writing the book might seem like the most difficult part…and then you have to actually  title the darn thing!

When it comes to writing a book , coming up with reasonable book title ideas is surprisingly one of the hardest parts to complete. It’s difficult because titles are essentially short hooks that advertise your book using the fewest words possible.

It’s also what readers look for first when they discover new books, and can take less than 5 seconds to make a decision.

This is why it’s so crucial to craft a perfect name.

Nonfiction Book Title Generator

Tip: Use a noun or verb for best results.

Sps Book Title Generator Illustration

Enter your information below to get your customized Book Title recommendation! Need more than 1 title recommendation? Submit again!

Your Title Ideas:

Here’s how to come up with book title ideas:

To help spur your creative process, we’ve created a few essential guidelines for you to follow as you craft the perfect book title ideas for your masterpiece.

Since there are different title considerations for fiction and non-fiction, we broke these two topics down separately into:

How to Choose a Book Title for Non-Fiction

Let’s create your bestselling title!

Before you publish a book , you have to come up with an effective title. For some authors, this is easy and the most fun part. For others…it can be what holds them back from publishing.

As you begin crafting your book title ideas for your non-fiction book,  the key is knowing that non-fiction readers are looking for solutions.  

Whether it’s losing weight, becoming a master in sales, or becoming better at fostering relationships, they’re simply looking for a book that will solve their problem. After all, most people who write nonfiction books are looking to help people in some way.

To leverage this idea, here are a set of rules to consider:

#1 – Book Title Generator Tools to Use

There are a ton of book title generators out there. And if you’re someone who lacks even the inspiration for a title, these can help you big time.

Book title generators are great tools because they can give you a wide range of different names to choose from.

One thing many authors face when choosing a title is sticking too close to the name they previously thought of. This can blind you to potential other titles in various formats.

However, some of these tools can fall very flat, resulting in names that don’t make sense and should not be used as actual titles.

Therefore, we didn’t just round up a list of every book title generator we could find. Instead, we tested a huge list and decided that these are truly the only ones worth your time.

Here’s a list of the best book title generators:

Give these a try, and comment down below your favorite! Also, let us know if you want any book title generators we should add to this list.

#2 – Your Title Must Include a Solution to a Problem

Your title should be crystal clear on what your readers will achieve by reading your book. Experts say that a title with a clear promise or a guarantee of results will further intrigue your readers.

Here are some questions to consider when creating your title:

Here are our favorite book titles that offer a clear solution to a problem with promising results:

Book Title Ideas Example

ACTION STEP: Write down the best solutions or teachings your book offers and form these into potential book title ideas.

#3 – Use a Subtitle for Clarity

A great non-fiction title employs a subtitle to clarify what the desired outcome will be from reading your book.

In this video clip, Chandler explains in 5 simple steps how to create a compelling subtitle:

Here are some questions to consider when creating your subtitle:

Here are our favorite book subtitles that spell out what their readers can expect from reading their books:

ACTION STEP: Make a list of 10 attention-grabbing subtitles that promise big outcomes and other positive benefits.

#4 – Make Your Title Unforgettable

Make an effort to be more creative and fun with your book title! Use alliteration  to make your title easier to read and remember. A memorable and light-hearted title adds additional character to your book and is also a great way to attract readers .

Catchy titles are memorable, boring titles are not.

But also keep in mind: if your title is overly clever and not clear, it can cause more confusion than it’s worth. The key is using catchiness in a way that is clear. That’s what will make your book title stand out.

Here are some questions to consider when creating your memorable title:

Here are our favorite books that engaged us with clever titles and subtitles:

No matter which method works best on creating a compelling title for nonfiction books, a good thing to remember is to always test multiple titles with different audiences to determine which book title generates the biggest response.

Getting good feedback is the only way to know for certain which title is perfect for your book.

ACTION STEP: Experiment with different types of styles and poll your audience to determine whether a comedic, shocking, or even bizarre title will be the most appealing to your target audience.

How to Generate Book Title Ideas for a Fiction Novel

Generally, fiction titles are allowed more creative wiggle room than their non-fiction counterparts. That being said, an effective fiction title must still pique your readers’ attention .

And while it’s true that you can title your fiction book with random names, it still must catch the reader’s attention .

Here are some key guidelines to keep in mind:

#1 – Your Title Should be Appropriate to Your Genre

Your novel title should use language that resonates with both your book genre and target audience . For example, a romantic book can call for dreamy language whereas an action book can warrant strong and powerful words.

This means that you must know your book’s genre and words that best fit the style of title.

Here are some questions to consider for appropriate genre titles:

Here are our favorite fictional titles based on genre:

ACTION STEP: Based on the genre of your book, pick out a few keywords that best suit its category and evoke strong emotions in your readers.

#2 – Your Book Title Should Pique Your Reader’s Interest

Create fictional titles intriguing enough to  capture the imaginations of your readers , and get to them to read your story.

A great fiction title teases and leaves your audience wanting more. You want your audience to read your title and think, “I must read what’s behind that great book cover !”

Here are some questions to consider on how to pique interest with your title:

Here are our favorite fictional titles that drew our attention:

ACTION STEP: Choose a theme that will best draw your reader’s attention. Come up with 5 titles that will catch your reader’s attention and pique their curiosity.

#3 – Look to Your Characters for Book Title Inspiration

A great book title captures the spirit of the protagonist. Some authors simply use the hero’s name for their title.

Others have combined the names of their hero along with their special qualities to inform the audience about their protagonist’s accomplishments like Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

On the flip side, a formidable antagonist can also be an amazing book title.

A sinister name can convey a sense of dread and expectation for what’s to come like Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. Both choices are great title ideas and should be seriously considered for your fictional book.

Here are some questions to consider when including a character as a title:

Here are our favorite fictional books that use characters for its title:

ACTION STEP: Determine which character best conveys what the story will tell in your title. You may also include creative words or themes to further showcase the character’s unique qualities or the journey itself.

#4 – Get Feedback From Your Target Audience

The people who will know if your title is a good fit best, are the people who would pick your book out of a lineup. This is why it’s so important to know the target audience for your book from the start.

This can be difficult if you’re not a part of a writing group or aren’t active on social media.

However, here are some tips for getting book title feedback:

Your Next Steps

Ultimately, the title of your book depends on you, the author. By following these constructive guidelines, you will be able to generate a number of book title ideas you can use to find the perfect one that grasps the attention of readers and soon become an Amazon bestseller in no time!

#1 – Join your FREE training!

This training was created just for you. Make sure to save your spot and sign up right now so you can learn exactly what it takes to write and publish your book within 90 days…or even less!

You won’t find this guide anywhere else. Take advantage of this offer so you can spark multiple book title ideas in as little as an hour!

#2 – Create a list of book title ideas

Now is the time to fire up that imagination and start brainstorming! We gave you a number of different actionable steps to help you generate book title ideas that work well.

Now is the time to make a list of every potential book title you can think of! The more, the merrier.

When this is done, you’ll want to go through and jot down any that really make you  feel something in a separate list. These are the ones you’ll use for the next step.

#3 – Get feedback about the top title

It’s hard to pick a title by yourself because you’re too close to the book. What will help you find the best title is putting the options out there for your target audience to choose.

A fantastic way to do this is to join writing and publishing groups online where you can post polls.

For example, our Facebook Mastermind Community has a very large number of experienced authors who respond to polls just like these on a near-daily basis.

Locate a group you like, join, and start polling about your title!

Want feedback from other authors and coaches on your book?

Check out our school to learn more! Free web class training on how to write your book in 90 days!

Write Your Book Workshop

Chandler Bolt

Most popular blog posts, what is self-publishing school.

We help you save time, money, and headaches through the book, writing, marketing, and publishing process by giving you the proven, step-by-step process and accountability to publish successfully. All while allowing you to maintain control of your book–and its royalties. Learn to publish a book to grow your impact, income, or business!

writing book titles

IMAGES

  1. 10 Steps To Writing A Good Book Title

    writing book titles

  2. Some ways to write your title

    writing book titles

  3. 5 Profound Life Lessons I Learned from Writing My New Book

    writing book titles

  4. How to choose a book title

    writing book titles

  5. 15 Tips for Book Titles

    writing book titles

  6. What is the correct way to write book titles in an essay?

    writing book titles

VIDEO

  1. Writing Better Page Titles

  2. A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Your First Book

  3. how to write a book

  4. 📚 17 Teaching Books for the Summer 🏖️

  5. how to write a book

  6. Title How To Read The Books?

COMMENTS

  1. Italics and Underlining: Titles of Works

    Titles of full works like books or newspapers should be italicized. Titles of short works like poems, articles, short stories, or chapters

  2. Proper Way to Write Book Titles

    So, what is the correct way to show book titles when writing? This is a good question. Chicago Manual of Style and the Modern Language Association tell us to

  3. Do You Underline Book Titles?

    According to the Chicago Manual of Style and the Modern Language Association, titles of books (and other complete works, such as newspapers and

  4. How To Write The Perfect Book Title [Examples Included]

    We usually start with a really long title and work our way down to much a short title. The goal is the main title be as short as possible—no more than 5 words—

  5. MLA Style Guide, 7th Edition: Titles

    The book title is italicized; the title of the article or essay is enclosed in quotations. Example: Henderson, Carol E. "Refiguring the Flesh:

  6. How Do You Properly Format Your Book Titles?

    The short answer to this is yes. There is a general rule (like a rule of thumb for writing book titles) that states that titles of more

  7. How to Create Brilliant Book Titles (With Examples)

    Your best ideas are going to come from inside your pretty little head, so use it. Sit down and think of all the interesting titles that come to your mind. Ask

  8. How to Write Book Titles

    What's in a book title? · Use a character name · Use the name of your setting · Use a time setting · Use literally what it's about · Use a quote or a

  9. Should You Underline Or Italicise Book Titles?

    Italicise or Underline Book Titles: The General Rule ... Unless you're following a style guide that specifically tells you otherwise, you should generally

  10. Book Title Ideas: Choosing Your Own & Generators to Use

    Use a book title generator tool; Write down the problem you're solving; Create a subtitle to clarify; Make it memorable; Make sure it's genre-appropriate