Quotation Marks Around Associated Press Stylebook, Chicago manual & dictionaries
Unlike Chicago style, which puts book titles in italics, Associated Press style says to put them in quotation marks. It makes sense. Decades ago, when printing presses were simple, lumbering, limited machines, italics were harder to produce in print. If you have a universal system in which everyone uses symbols you know they can reproduce -- i.e. quotation marks -- then you don’t have to worry about whether they’re able to make italics.
Of course, today, any teenager can produce highly professional looking publications complete with not just italics but pretty much any formatting, symbols, or graphics under the sun. So AP's style may be a little outdated. But, in what may be an example of “If it works, don’t fix it” thinking, quotation marks around book, movie, TV show, and other titles contineus to be AP’s official style.
The Associated Press Stylebook just happens to be one of the book titles I write about most, along with the Chicago Manual of Style. I always put them in quotation marks – have been for years. I do the same for dictionaries, which I also mention a lot. Then just the other day, I got an e-mail from an editor at one of the papers that runs my column. He was writing to tell me I was doing it wrong. The style guide titles should not be in quote marks, he said.
He pointed me to listing in AP for “composition titles,” which says to put quotation marks around “book titles, movie titles, opera titles, play titles” and more. That’s as far as I ever remember reading in the guidebook. I never noticed the second half of that sentence: “… except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material. … this category includes almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, hadnbooks and similar publications.”*
I’ve been doing it wrong all these years, even though clear instructions were under my nose the whole time.
*Exact wording taken from the 1992 edition.