When you're writing a paper or article in school or at work, you may be in a situation where you need to write a movie title in your writing. But how should you format them? Should you use italics? Or quotation marks? Or maybe both? Or neither…
The first thing to note is that the rules will be different depending on whether you’re writing an article or an essay. In this guide, we'll explain how to write one in an essay or article so that your writing looks professional and polished. Refer to the relevant section, depending on the piece you are creating.
The main things to know are:
Read on for suggestions of different formats for articles, and more in-depth guidance around different university referencing styles.
Let's begin by exploring why you need a specific format, and examining some key principles and rules around writing a movie title in an article.
So picture this. You’re writing an article and want to refer to a particular movie - perhaps to illustrate a point, or maybe you’re critiquing it. But you’re unsure how to format it. You don’t want to be marked down for formatting it incorrectly, so you consider leaving it out to avoid the trouble. Not on our watch!
But hold on a sec! Why should you even worry about this? Why do movie titles need to be formatted correctly anyway? Well, it’s simple really. If you don’t differentiate the title from the rest of the text, your readers might not understand you’re referring to a movie title. Imagine, for instance, that you wrote:
I finally got around to watching three billboards outside ebbing missouri.
Can we agree this sentence doesn’t make any sense? With this punctuation (i.e. none) your reader may well believe that you headed out into the night and found a couple of billboards to look at for some time.
So do you see why it’s important to have some kind of format for writing movie titles?
Now here’s the tricky bit: with articles, there’s no hard and fast rule on how to format a movie title in your writing. There are many different options and any of them would be acceptable to use in an article you’re going to publish online or physically.
So what to do?
Our first advice is to check in with your editor/head of copywriting / your point of reference at the company you work at. They will most likely have a specific format they like to use and will be able to share that with you.
That’s if you are writing for a company.
If you’re self-publishing, say, for example, on your website or Medium.com, then you’re the boss, friend. The conventions you use are completely up to you.
But here are a few key principles and rules:
Now let's turn our attention towards writing a movie title in an essay.
New scenario. You’re writing an essay for your college or university course. Perhaps you’re using the movie as an example, or maybe you’re critiquing it.
But you don’t want to be marked down for getting it wrong, so you consider avoiding mentioning it altogether. But that would be a shame! Let us help you.
Here are some general rules to get you started:
There are different academic referencing/writing styles in the English language, and these vary depending on the education establishment. Different styles have different rules that govern the way that you might write, punctuate and cite within your essay.
The four most common styles are Associated Press (AP), Chicago, American Psychological Association (APA), and Modern Language Association (MLA).
Of course, there are many more than just four in existence, but these are the prevalent ones.
But why are there so many different writing styles, we hear you ask? Quite simply, this is to cater to different fields. For instance, the scientific sector places a lot of importance on using recent research, hence the APA style places the date before anything. Humanities tend to use the MLA style which places the author's name first.
Luckily, the APA, MLA, and Chicago styles all use the same format for movie titles, so it’ll be easy to remember.
These styles all require that you place the movie title in italics. Here are some examples:
Do not use any quotation marks! This is not necessary and will be considered incorrect.
You’ll also notice that the title is written in the title case. This means you capitalize certain words in the title. More on that in the next section.
The AP style is the exception here since it does not use italics to format movie titles. Instead, you’re required to use quotation marks. Let’s use the same examples as above, to make the difference clear:
Again, here, remember to use title case.
Using title case means that you capitalize certain words in the title. But depending on the writing style you’re using, there are different rules on which words need capitalizing and which ones don't. Mostly, they disagree on whether or not to capitalize minor words.
Read on to find out the rules for each style, to ensure you’re writing it correctly.
Note that if you’re writing an article, this will again depend on the rules that the company you work for is using, or if you’re writing for your own business, then you can make your own rules. Remember to pick a structure and stick to it. Consistency is key!
As you can see, all four styles share some common rules but are different in certain small details.
Here are some examples of incorrect ways to write a movie title:
Can you figure out what is wrong with each of these examples? We’ll give you a clue! It has to do with incorrect usage of title cases, block capitals and quotation marks.
We just wanted to include a little note here to remind you that when citing a movie in your essay, you should include it in your reference list, or bibliography, depending on the academic writing style you are using.
Again, the structure of your reference list will vary depending on whether you’re writing in APA, AP, MLA or Chicago, and you can find guidance on this in an official manual for the style (or online).
There are some other things you might be interested in knowing that are related to the topic of how to write a movie title in an essay or article, so we’re detailing those below.
So you’ve successfully referenced a movie using the rules outlined above. Now you’d like to quote a line from the movie. Which conventions should you use for this?
For this, you would use quotation marks. For instance, if you want to quote this famous line from the movie Star Wars, you would write: “May the force be with you.”
Remember that if you’re writing an essay, you might need to also include the reference in your in-text citation. Let us show you a full example of what this would look like:
History was made when General Dodonna said “May the force be with you.” in the iconic movie Star Wars (Lucas, 1977).
If you wanted to cite a TV series, you would follow the same rules as those for citing a movie - as outlined above. But what if you also wanted to include the name of the episode you’re referring to?
Similarly to inserting a direct quote from a movie, in this case, we recommend using quotation marks. For example:
Friends, “The One Where Everybody Finds Out.”
If writing an essay, please refer to your academic writing style’s guide to learn about conventions around formatting and using title case.
Dating back as far as the early 1900s, the word ‘movie’ stems from the term ‘moving picture’.
Before they could be projected onto a screen for wider viewing, the first movies could only be seen by one person at a time, using an Electrotachyscope, Kinetoscope, or Mutoscope.
And there we have it! We hope that this article has helped you better understand the conventions around writing a movie title in your essay or article, so you can feel confident about handing in your essay or turning in your article to your line manager.
To summarize, when you’re writing an article, the rules are pretty much up to you if writing for your own business, or your manager if writing for another company. Check-in with them to find out which conventions are already in place.
If writing an essay, then you should always use the structure set out in the academic writing style’s manual. Find out first of all which style you are expected to use.
Now that that's done, it's time to get writing!
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