When referencing the title of something (which is normally italicized) in quotes, is it written like this:

David Guggenheim uses the title "Waiting for Superman"

or like this?

David Guggenheim uses the title "Waiting for Superman"


Style guide preferences on the question of whether to use quotation marks or italics for titles of works vary depending on the guide and on the type of work that the title is associated with. But whatever the type of title, I have never seen a style guide recommend using both italics and quotation marks for the whole thing except in the context of dialogue such as this:

"What movie are you going to see?"

"Burden of Dreams."

For nonspecialist U.S. writers, the two most influential style guides are Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook. As it happens, they disagree about whether writers should use italics or quotation marks to indicate a film title. AP would render a typical film title as

"My Dinner With Andre"

while Chicago would render it as

My Dinner with Andre

But in the present case, the poster has chosen an unusually complicated title to ask about. As you can see from this lobby placard, the title of the film in question is Waiting for "Superman"—that is, the last word in the title is originally enclosed in quotation marks. Consequently, the choices for rendering the film's title in a way that preserves the original punctuation would seem to come down to

"Waiting for 'Superman'"


Waiting for "Superman"

It would certainly do no good to put the whole title simultaneously in italics and in quotation marks, as the poster suggests doing—

"Waiting for Superman"

—because that would ignore the placement of quotation marks around the word Superman in the original title.

Both Chicago and AP offer guidelines that are more or less relevant to this particular case. AP's as usual, are relatively skeletal:

composition titles Apply the guidelines listed here to book titles, computer game titles (but not software titles), movie titles, opera, titles, play titles, song titles, television program titles, and the titles of lectures, speeches and works of art. ...

—Put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material. In addition to catalogs, this category includes almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications.

AP then lists, among its numerous examples, "Gone With the Wind," "Of Mice and Men," "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Time After Time." Most of these are both novel titles and movie titles, but that is of no consequence to AP, since it applies its quotation mark rule to almost all types of titles (as noted above).

Chicago's guidelines for handling titles are much more detailed, distinguishing between short story titles (quotation marks) and novel titles (italics), for example. Here is the relevant advice from Chicago:

8.185 Titles of movies and television and radio programs and series. Titles of movies and of television and radio programs and series are italicized. A single episode in a television or radio series is set in roman and enclosed in quotation marks. [Relevant film examples:] Gone with the Wind[;] The Godfather, Part II


4.102 Titles within titles. Titles of long or short works appearing within an italicized title are enclosed in quotation marks, regardless of how such titles would appear alone. [Relevant examples:] The Harmonistic Organization of "The Rite of Spring"; Annotations to "Finnegans Wake"[.] Quotation marks within a book title do not, of course, always denote another title. [Relevant example:] "Race," Writing, and Difference[.]

Referring to these fragments of advice from Chicago, we can identify the following points: The work in question is a film, so the title should be in italics; and the word "Superman" appears in quotation marks in the title, so the quotation marks should be retained in references to the title.


According to AP style preferences, the proper way to render the OP's example wording is

David Guggenheim uses the title "Waiting for 'Superman'"

According to Chicago style preferences, the proper way to render the OP's example wording is

David Guggenheim uses the title Waiting for "Superman"

  • Some might say you haven't solved it yet. On official posters and elsewhere the official lettering is WAITING FOR "SUPERMAN". Or without the caps, Waiting for "Superman". – AmE speaker Dec 20 '17 at 22:20

Either or but not both. Also, I would add a comma.

David Guggenheim uses the title, "Waiting for Superman."

David Guggenheim uses the title, Waiting for Superman.


On reflection I would reserve double quotes for dialog and use single quotes in this situation.

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David Guggenheim uses the title, 'Waiting for Superman.'

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