Monday, March 14, 2016

How to Write Book (and Movie and Poem and Everything in between) Titles

Figuring out how to handle titles can sometimes feel overwhelming—everything from books to poems to chapters to TV series to songs is expected to follow specific rules, and it can seem hard to remember which is which.

But the good news is twofold: One, for the most part, it doesn't matter what style guide you need to follow, because they all generally use the same rules. And two, there is some rhyme and reason to the choices, so you really only need to remember very little. Yay!

Book or Chapter: Big and Little Titles

The first thing to know is that the rules generally separate items into two subsets: large pieces of works and smaller pieces of works. For example, a book is a large piece, while a chapter is a smaller piece within the larger piece. Other examples include the following:
  • TV Show --> One Episode
  • Book of Poetry --> One Poem
  • CD --> One Song
  • Play --> One Act
Once you've identified which subset the title you're working with falls into, then you can determine its treatment fairly quickly.

Writing Titles for Books (and Other Large Works)

Titles of larger works are italicized. 

I recently read The Martian so I could compare it to the movie.
I've had Adele's album 25 on repeat for the past three weeks.
I was so excited when Amazon announced it was picking up Dr. Who. (Yes, I'm for real.)

Writing Titles for Chapters (and Other Small Works)

Titles of smaller works are "put into quotation marks."

The scene "Checks Out" from the movie The Martian blew me away.
Adele's voice in "Hello" is hauntingly beautiful. (No, really, check it out. You'll be haunted.)

"Midnight," according to one of my friends, is the best standalone episode of Dr. Who.

A Word on Capitalization

If I tried to explain all the rules there are about capitalizing titles, you wouldn't believe me—unless you were one of the few and the brave charged with ensuring title accuracy on a daily basis. But don't worry—if you're not one of the few, getting capitalization perfect probably isn't all that important. A really easy option is to simply capitalize all words of four letters and longer. Another really easy option is to capitalize all major words. 

The most important thing to remember, though, is to ensure that you're capitalizing all titles consistently.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Brilliant Writers Make Long Sentences Work

I've recently started reading The Complete Tales of Pooh (the original Winnie the Pooh stories) to my three-year-old. I've been pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it is for an much more than so many kids' books I've trudged through because she loves them.

In our most recent reading, we came across a sentence that was ridiculously long. It was a great reminder that great writers (along with their editors) can break out of the strict writing mold at times in a way that brings variety to sentence structure without losing the reader.
In after-years he liked to think that he had been in Very Great Danger during the Terrible Flood, but the only danger he had really been in was in the last half-hour of his imprisonment, when Owl, who had just flown up, sat on a branch of his tree to comfort him, and told hime a very long story about an aunt who had once laid a seagull's egg by mistake, and the story went on and on, rather like this sentence, until Piglet who was listening out of his window without much hope, went to sleep quietly and naturally, slipping slowly out of the window towards the water until he was only hanging on by his toes, at which moment luckily, a sudden loud squawk from Owl, which was really part of the story, being what his aunt said, woke the Piglet up and just gave him time to jerk himself back into safety and say, "How interesting, and did she?" when—well, you can imagine his joy when at least he saw the good ship, The Brain of Pooh (Captain, C. Robin; 1st Mate, P. Bear) coming over the sea to rescue him.
Yes, that is a single sentence. Pretty cool, huh?