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Poetry Titles In Essays

Brandi Reissenweber

Q: Do I italicize the title of a short story? What about poem titles?

A: Titles of individual short stories and poems go in quotation marks. The titles of short story and poetry collections should be italicized. For example, “The Intruder,” a short story by Andre Dubus appears in his collection, Dancing After Hours.

This can get a little tricky when authors title their collection after a story within that collection. Junot Diaz’s collection of stories Drownincludes a story titled “Drown.” In this case, the use of italics or quotation marks can help the reader understand what’s being referenced—the entire book or the individual story.

This usage remains true even when titles appear within quotations. Let’s say you write a poem about a poem and you title it this way:

Lines after Reading “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Now, you need to enclose the entire title of the poem within quotations when you mention this poem in a cover letter. The title that appears within the title, then, should be enclosed in single quotation marks:

“Lines after Reading ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’”

Brandi Reissenweber teaches fiction writing and reading fiction at Gotham Writers’ Workshop and authored the chapter on characterization in Gotham’sWriting Fiction: The Practical Guide. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Phoebe, North Dakota Quarterly and Rattapallax. She was a James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and has taught fiction at New York University, University of Wisconsin and University of Chicago. Currently, she is a visiting professor at Illinois Wesleyan University.

Quotation Marks with Fiction, Poetry, and Titles

Summary:

A rundown of the general rules of when and where to use quotation marks.

Contributors:Sean M. Conrey, Mark Pepper, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2016-02-27 11:17:45

Block Quotations

Check your citation style guide for specific guidelines on when you should use block quotations. Typically, you should use a block quotation when the quotation extends more than four typed lines (in MLA style) or extends 40 words or longer (in APA style). Although they are allowed in any type of writing, you will likely most often use them when quoting from fiction or literature. A block quotation is removed from the main body of your text. Indent one inch from the main margin (the equivalent of two half-inch paragraph indentations) and begin your quote. Maintain double spacing throughout, but you do not need to use quotation marks.

Gatsby experiences a moment of clarity while standing with Daisy on his dock. Fitzgerald writes:

Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now to him vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one. (98)

Quoting Poetry

When you quote a single line of poetry, write it like any other short quotation. If the piece of poetry you are quoting crosses multiple lines of the poem itself, you may still type them in your text run together. Show the reader where the poem's line breaks fall by using slash marks.

In his poem, "Mending Wall," Robert Frost writes: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall,/ that send the frozen-ground-swell under it" (42-44).

If the quotation is three lines or longer, set it off like a block quotation (see above). Some writers prefer to set off two-line verse quotations for emphasis. Quote the poem line by line as it appears on the original page. Do not use quotation marks, and indent one inch from the left margin.

In his poem "Mending Wall," Robert Frost questions the building of barriers and walls:

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Writing Dialogue

Write each person's spoken words, however brief, as a separate paragraph. Use commas to set off dialogue tags such as "she said" or "he explained." If one person's speech goes on for more than one paragraph, use quotation marks to open the dialogue at the beginning of each paragraph. However, do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the final paragraph where that character is speaking.

Quotation Marks with Titles

Use quotations marks for:

  • Titles of short or minor works
  • Songs
  • Short Stories
  • Essays
  • Short Poems
  • One Act Plays
  • Other literary works shorter than a three act play or complete book
  • Titles of sections from longer works
  • Chapters in books
  • Articles in newspapers, magazines, or journals
  • Episodes of television and radio series

Underlining or italics are used for the titles of long pieces or works that contain smaller sections.