Headlines and Titles of Works
Q. A book title is written in italics, as is the title of a musical album. Chapter names and songs are set between quotation marks. If I’m correct, the thinking behind this is that a song is usually part of an album or a play or some sort of larger work. However, it wasn’t that long ago that a song was a stand-alone work, released as sheet music or as a single on a 78 or 45 rpm record. LPs and the concept of an album came to prominence in the 1960s. So what do we do with “The Pineapple Rag,” which was never part of an album? It was released originally as sheet music and possibly as a player piano roll. Throughout most of music history, the song was the major work. Some songs, like “Money” on Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, are integral parts of the album, while Bach’s Minuet in G has nothing to do with any larger work. Doesn’t it make more sense to italicize song titles? This also eliminates all the awkward quotes and commas when listing the songs in an album or play. Thoughts?
A. Your viewpoint is valid. Songs can fall into more than one category and may reasonably be styled in different ways. There are similar issues with maps, which are sometimes a single page in an atlas and sometimes published as an independent pamphlet or work of art. Adapt the style to suit the document. If italics work better for your songs in a given context, by all means use italics.