What Should Be Underlined in an Essay?

Aug 21, 2020


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Back in the day, before the coming of Microsoft Word, writing had to be done a typewriter. Those typewriters had only the capitalization and underlining features as the only effective means of emphasizing a particular text fragment. As a result, writers had to manage the quotation marks for emphasizing titles.

But the problem with quotation marks is that the title can be confused with someone’s speech. So, the underline feature was the most common method of emphasizing titles . . . until the new word processors came along. The new computers had functions like bold type and italics, increasing the options for emphasizing text. 

As a response to this change, modern writing standards started accepting italicizing while phasing out underlining words and phrases for emphasis. Now, you mostly see the underline feature on hyperlinks or handwritten essays. 

Nevertheless, some lecturers instruct students to use the old methods in their essays. So, you need to confirm how lenient your professor is with these rules. Use the italicizing or underline to draw extra attention to specific text in your paper.

What should I underline in my essay?


By titles, I am referring to the name of a publication mentioned in your essay (I will get to the essay’s title later). 

You should italicize any work that is a long piece or collection of other works (except the bible and the Quran). Here are some of the titles you can underline (italicize) with examples:

  • Books – Have you read The Old Man and the Sea?
  • Magazines and publications – The New York Times
  • Plays and operas – A rendition of Journey of The Night
  • Movies and artwork – An analysis of Mission Impossible


The names of famous vehicles should be underlined or italicized.

  • The disaster on the Challenger
  • The invention of the Boeing 747

Airlines and car companies (Turkish Airlines and Volkswagen) are exempt from underlining.

Emphasis words

If you are writing a sentence that requires an extra emphasis on a particular word to enhance the meaning of the statement, you can underline or italicize it.

“The real problem here is you.”

Now, when it comes to the essay’s title, the same principle applies. The modern writing standards stress that you no longer need to underline the entire title, but only the necessary words.

  • An Analysis of the Impacts of The Godfather on American-Italians
  • How to Read To Kill A Mockingbird

The use of the underline feature is essential when writing essays by hand. Confirm the acceptable method when working with a soft copy. And when you choose a style, stick with it throughout the paper.


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