When it comes to titles, the rule of thumb is: size does matter, so when it’s big – italicize! Books, full-length plays, long poems, anthologies, collections, blogs, newspapers or magazines, academic journals; movies, radio and TV shows; operas, musicals and music albums; airplanes, ships, spacecrafts and trains; important works of art; computer and video games – all italicized.
I loved the latest episode of South Park. As usual, the writers made fun of everything: the musical Cats, The Bold and the Beautiful soap opera, Titanic (the movie and the ship!), da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Hamlet, The Lord of the Rings series, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Poe’s The Raven. And Kenny died while playing Dungeons & Dragons! I can’t wait to read the recap of the episode on the New York Times’ website.
You use quotation marks when you select. Imagine you’re the bouncer at a club and you can only let short people in because the club is in a very old basement (I know, it’s far-fetched, but bear with me). You have to select only those guys who are the smallest in their groups, such as: titles of chapters, titles of magazine articles, sections of works, songs, essays, short films and short stories, anything selected from a collection of work or an anthology, episodes or scenes in a TV show.
I can’t get over the fact that they killed Damon in “Home”, Vampire Diaries season 5 finale. I get so attached to characters, it’s the Dumbledore situation all over again. As soon as I finished “The Lightning-Struck Tower”, I stopped reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and I never came back. I didn’t even read “Dumbledore’s Army Reunites at Quidditch World Cup Final”, JK Rowling’s recent short story.
Obviously, there are some exceptions to the rule of size and selection. First of all, we never italicize what’s sacred to some people: the Bible, the Koran (or the Quran), the Torah. Even further than that, do not dare italicize their contents, e.g. Genesis, Exodus or the Book of Revelation.
Also, when you stop to think about how people can get precious over their cars or boats, you’ll get the idea that we do not put the names of vehicles that are brand names in italics either: Porsche, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Impala or Catalina sailboat will remain italics-free.
Another lovely exception is what you may have observed above when I made a reference to the New York Times. Yes, you guessed it: we do not italicize “the” in such titles, even if it seems inherent to the name. Unless it’s The Economist which, for some reason, thinks it’s better than other newspapers.
You should also bear in mind that punctuation always matters: when a title ends with a question mark or an exclamation mark, we italicize it as well. Therefore, you will write Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but “Have you read Moby-Dick?” and “I have never seen Mamma Mia!”. And that’s probably the first time somebody referenced Moby-Dick and Mamma Mia! in the same sentence… Or, at least, I hope so.