Use of italics

Most of us are familiar with italics, a slanted typeface that in which the type is slanted to the right: italics. Some of us could use a review of its uses.

Before word processors and printers became more sophisticated to produce italics, underlining was used. Both underlining and italics set off words in a sentence for different reasons, such as giving these words special meaning or emphasis.

For instance, a principal use is for titles of long or complete, stand-alone works, like reports and webpages. In addition, italicized title of films and dvds, long poems, newspapers, magazines and journals, long musical works, pamphlets, paintings and sculpture, plays, podcasts and radio series, recordings, software, and television series. For shorter works, use quotation marks. (Though it is generally still possible to italicize words and phrases in electronic communications, like emails and webpages, this convention is often ignored.)

Words, letters, and numbers used as terms are italicized. For example, “On the back of his jersey was the famous 24.” (The Everyday Writer 235) Non-English words and phrases are also italicized, unless they are so common, they have become part of English, usually when they are found in an English dictionary; for instance, the French “bourgeois” or the Russian “samovar.” But in this sentence, “The word for war in Spanish is guerra”, guerra is italicized. Latin genus and species names are always italicized. In addition, italicize names of aircraft, spacecraft, ships, and trains, as in these examples from The Everyday Writer 235:

Spirit of St. Louis


USS Iowa

Amtrak’s Silver Star

Finally, another use of italics is to add emphasis, especially if the information might be lost or the material might be misread. Consider this example from the APA style blog:

“Research on creativity indicates that ‘promoting creativity without attending to the subsequent psychological and behavioral changes decreases rather than increases [emphasis added] organizational performance over the long run’” (Ng & Yam, 2019, p. 1157).

While titles of books are italicized, the titles of book series are not: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows but the Harry Potter series.

Italics are used when we want a word or phrase to stand out in a block of text, whether it is a title, a word used as a term, or word used for emphasis, though this last use should be sparing. (Resources: The Everyday Writer;

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