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Using Italics in Writing

by Tiffany

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Italics refers to fonts where the letters slant to the right, like this. It is used to identify certain titles and to emphasize expressions.

Titles and Names

Italicize the titles of novels, books, movies, and plays, and the names of newspapers, magazines, and journals.
• The Toronto Star newspaper is doing a review of the movie The Dark Knight. The reporter said it was one of the best Batman movies yet!

Even names of ships are italicized as well.
• TheTitanic sailed the ocean in 1912.

When making a title plural by adding s, do not italicize the s.

• The library has sixteen Anna Kareninas.


If the original title ends in s, keep it italicized in the plural.

• Brian sold sixteen New York Times in half an hour.


Legal Cases

Italicize the names of legal cases.

• Roe vs. Wade was one of the most controversial legal cases in history.

Emphasizing Words in a Sentence

If you want to stress a certain word (similar to the way people stress words when speaking). Be extremely careful not to overuse this. Use italics for emphasis as little as possible. Clear sentence structure and exciting word choice will make your writing dramatic; too many italics will make it look amateurish and unprofessional. So try to avoid this particular technique if you can.

• "I said nice, not rice!"


Foreign Words and Technical Terms

Depending on how often foreign words are used in your writing, they can be italicized. If they are too many foreign words, then it's probably best to leave them be. Some authors choose to disregard italicizing every foreign word.
• "I had some delicious coq au vin for dinner."

Latin terms for living organisms also use italics:
• "The homo sapiens is a species better known as human beings.

Introducing or defining terms, especially technical terms or those used in an unusual or different way will use italics:
"Freudian psychology is based on the ego, the super-ego, and the id."

Symbols for physical quantities and other mathematical variables:
"The speed of light, c, is approximately equal to 3.00Ã-108 m s-1."

Letters

Using a single letter mentioned as itself.
• May signs her name with a capital M.


Letter grades don't have to be emphasized with italics.
• Brian got an A in his math class.


Using Words as Examples

Using a word as an example of a word, rather than as part of a sentence:
"The word the is an article."


Used in Thought

Sometimes in novels, italics are used to indicate a character's thought process:


• "This can't be happening, thought Ray."

Punctuation Following Italics

Only italicize titles and names themselves. Do not italicize punctuation marks, letters, or words that follow italicized titles and names.

• Tom, who just reread The Talented Mr. Ripley, is planning a trip to Italy.


Image Credits: J4ever Photobucket album, Nugget Market, polytropia

4 Comments
    Allie_horses
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    Allie_horsesSat, 16 Mar 2013 13:53:58 -0000

    What about in plays? Why are italics important in plays?what difference does it make?

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    oLahav
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    Oren LahavMon, 02 Feb 2009 16:10:39 -0000

    Great lesson!

    I do have a question- how do you write in Italics when you're writing in pen and not on the computer? My handwriting slants without any control. From what I've heard, underlining to replace Italics is ok in handwritten documents under some circumstances. What do you think?

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    lucyinthesky
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    TiffanyMon, 02 Feb 2009 20:04:54 -0000

    I think that's ok to underline. If your handwriting is straight, then preferably you'd do your italics slanted. As long as you have something to distinguish your emphasized word(s) from your regular writing without too much hooplah, you'll be fine.

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    babceo
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    Chris BabowalMon, 15 Sep 2008 19:09:39 -0000

    Great lesson!

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    MayMay
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    May LMon, 15 Sep 2008 19:03:09 -0000

    "May signs her name with a capital M."

    Oh golly, I feel so special!

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Last Updated At Mar 16, 2013
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