How To Punctuate The Title Of A Short Story: A Comprehensive Guide

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With the rise of online literary magazines and the popularity of short story collections, it’s no wonder that short stories are becoming a staple in our reading diets.

But how do you punctuate the titles of these bite-sized narratives? Fear not, punctuation enthusiasts, because this comprehensive guide will walk you through the ins and outs of punctuating short story titles like a pro.

First things first, let’s get to the basics. Capitalization is key in punctuating short story titles. As a general rule, the first word and all other words except conjunctions, prepositions, and articles should be capitalized.

But what about quotation marks and italics? Should you use them for short story titles? And what about collections and anthologies? Don’t worry, we’ll cover all of that and more in this guide.

So grab your favorite short story and get ready to learn how to properly punctuate its title!

Key Takeaways

  • Short story titles should have the first word and all other words capitalized, except for conjunctions, prepositions, and articles.
  • Collections and anthologies should be italicized to emphasize that they are a compilation of works.
  • Punctuation rules should follow the style guide and be consistent throughout the article or work.
  • Short story titles should be enclosed in quotation marks, while collections and anthologies should be italicized.

Understand the Basic Rules of Capitalization

Want to know the basics of capitalization when it comes to short story titles? Let’s break it down!

While capitalization rules for titles of other literary works, such as poems and plays, may vary, the rules for short story titles are relatively straightforward. In general, the first word and all other words except for conjunctions, prepositions, and articles should be capitalized. For instance, “The Catcher in the Rye” and “The Great Gatsby” follow this basic capitalization rule.

However, there are exceptions to basic capitalization rules for short story titles in certain contexts. For example, if a short story title is part of a larger work, such as a book or an anthology, the title should be capitalized using title case. This means that all words except for conjunctions, prepositions, and articles are capitalized.

Additionally, if a short story title contains a proper noun, such as a specific place or person, the proper noun should be capitalized, even if it is a conjunction, preposition, or article.

Keep these exceptions in mind as you punctuate your short story titles, and you’ll be well on your way to creating titles that catch your readers’ attention!

Use Quotation Marks for Short Story Titles

When you hold the delicate pages of your favorite short story collection, you can almost hear the characters whispering their names as you flip through the book searching for ‘the one’- the story that speaks to you.

And when you finally find it, the title, in all its glory, is enclosed in quotation marks, as if to say, ‘I am here, I am special, and I am worth your time.’

using quotation marks in writing a short story title
Using quotation marks in writing a short story title

Using quotation marks for short story titles is a common practice that helps distinguish the title from the rest of the text. Examples of famous short story titles that are enclosed in quotation marks include ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe, and ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ by Flannery O’Connor.

However, it is important to avoid common mistakes when punctuating short story titles. For instance, don’t underline or italicize the title, unless you’re writing by hand or have specific formatting guidelines. Additionally, don’t place quotation marks around the author’s name or capitalize every word in the title, unless it’s a proper noun or the first word of the sentence.

By following these basic rules, you can effectively punctuate short story titles and give them the attention they deserve.

Italicize Titles of Collections and Anthologies

You may have noticed that formatting for single short story titles and collections/anthologies is different. Single short story titles are enclosed in quotation marks, while collections and anthologies are italicized. This is an important distinction to make when writing, as it helps readers distinguish between individual works and compilations.

Italicizing collections and anthologies is important because it emphasizes the fact that the book is a collection of works. It also helps the reader understand that the book is not just one long story, but a combination of multiple stories or essays. By italicizing the title, you’re giving it the emphasis it deserves and helping readers understand the structure of the book.

So remember, when writing about collections or anthologies, always italicize the title to ensure proper formatting and clarity for your readers.

Follow Style Guide Rules

Abiding by the rules set forth in the style guide is like following a roadmap to ensure your writing is polished and professional. When it comes to punctuating the title of a short story, following the style guide rules is crucial.

Not only does it prevent common punctuation errors, but it also emphasizes the importance of consistency in your writing. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Always capitalize the first and last word of the title, as well as any other important words such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
  • Italicize or underline the title of the short story, depending on the style guide you’re following.
  • If the title is part of a larger work, such as a collection or anthology, put the title in quotation marks.
  • If the title contains a punctuation mark such as a question mark or exclamation point, place it inside the quotation marks or italics.
  • Ensure that the punctuation follows the style guide rules consistently throughout your writing.

Following these guidelines will not only help you avoid common punctuation errors, but it’ll also give your writing a professional edge. Consistency in your formatting and punctuation is key to creating a polished and engaging piece of writing.

So, take the time to follow the style guide rules and watch your writing shine.

Double-Check Your Work

Make sure to give your writing a final once-over to catch any mistakes and ensure it’s polished and professional.

Proofreading is an essential step in the writing process, and it can make the difference between a mediocre piece and a great one. To make sure your short story title is punctuated correctly, check for common punctuation mistakes such as missing commas, incorrect apostrophes, and inconsistent capitalization.

When proofreading your short story title, pay close attention to the style guide rules you’ve followed. Ensure that you’ve used the correct punctuation marks in the title, such as quotation marks or italics. Also, check for any typos or misspelled words, as they can detract from the overall quality of your writing.

By taking the time to double-check your work, you can ensure that your short story title is polished and professional, and that it accurately reflects your creative vision.

Here’s how to punctuate a short story title properly


So, there you have it – a comprehensive guide on how to punctuate the title of a short story. Remember to always follow the basic rules of capitalization, use quotation marks for short story titles, and italicize titles of collections and anthologies.

Additionally, it’s important to follow the style guide rules of the publication you’re submitting to, and to double-check your work for any errors.

For example, let’s say you’re submitting a short story titled ‘The Last Train Home’ to a literary magazine. You carefully follow the rules outlined in this guide, including using quotation marks around the title, and double-check your work before submitting. Your story is accepted and published, and readers are drawn in by the intriguing title. The correct punctuation of your title can make all the difference in getting your work noticed and appreciated.

I hope this guide has been helpful to you in understanding how to properly punctuate the title of your short story.

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Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.