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4.12: Italics

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    70191
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    Italics add emphasis to a word or phrase. They are also used for certain titles.

    In the past, underlining was often used instead of italics. However, these days italics are preferred. The only time underlining still comes in handy is if you’re writing by hand (say on an exam). In that case, underlining is clearer than italics.

    Titles

    Titles of longer, independent works are italicized, whereas titles of shorter works are placed between quotation marks.

    The following list provides some examples of each:

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Titles

    Italics

    Quotation Marks

    Book

    Article or essay

    Play

    Short story

    Longer musical composition

    Poem or song

    Television show or series

    Webpage or post

    Film

    Website

    CD or DVD title

    As you can see, the shorter works are often included in the longer ones (e.g., a song is part of a cd).

    Titles That Start With “The”

    If a newspaper or journal title starts with “the,” you don’t have to italicize and capitalize it:

    Do you subscribe to the Wall Street Journal?

    Place Names

    Watch out for place names that are not actually part of the title. These should not be in italics:

    the London Times

    On the other hand, titles that include the place name should be entirely in italics:

    the Sydney Morning Herald

    Sacred Texts

    Do not use italics or quotation marks for the Bible and the Qur’an (other acceptable spellings are Koran and Quran).

    The same goes for their individual books and suras (when named and not numbered):

    John 3:16 may well be the most famous verse in the Bible.

    Note, however, that specific editions of the Bible are italicized:

    New International Version King James Bible

    Other Punctuation

    Be careful to distinguish between punctuation that is part of the title (and should be in italics) and punctuation that is part of the rest of the sentence:

    We read Horton Hears a Who! And The Cat in the Hat.

    The exclamation mark is part of the title whereas the period is not.

    Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

    Use italics for the name of any kind of transportation device or vehicle.

    Admiral Graf Spee (ship)
    Enola Gay (airplane)
    Voyager I (space probe)
    Orient Express (train)
    Lightning McQueen (car)

    By contrast, names of brands (e.g., Toyota) are not italicized.

    Words as Words

    If you draw attention to a particular word or phrase you can put it in italics:

    My favorite word is serendipity, followed closely by propinquity.

    In tech babble, the term unicorn refers to a start-up venture that has been valued over 1 billion dollars.

    You can also use quotation marks around such words—the main thing is to be consistent.

    In addition to words, you can also draw attention to letters and numbers:

    I always forget the second c in the word occasion.

    He says the number 0 in his password symbolizes ignorance.

    It’s less necessary to use italics when drawing attention to numbers, since they naturally stand out from the text.

    Emphasis

    You can use italics to add some emphasis. This is useful in dialogue, where you may want to capture what word was stressed by a speaker:

    I did tell you!

    However, most editors prefer to minimize the use of italics for this purpose. This is especially the case in academic writing.

    Foreign Words

    If you use a word or phrase from a different language, you should write it in italics.

    He is such a shlimazel!

    However, if you feel that the phrase has become part of the English language and will be readily understood then there’s no need for italics:

    Don’t make a faux pas by eating too many hors d’oeuvres.

    Obviously this is a judgment call. You will need to know both the language and your audience.

    Other Uses

    Table \(\PageIndex{2}\): Style Manual Guidelines

    Style Manual Guidelines

    Example

    Place individual letters, words, or a phrase in italics.

    (APA 4.2.1) (CMOS 7.47, 7.54, 7.59)

    The word vacuum has one c and two u's. the plural marked is not italicized

    A good turn-out (rotation of the feet and legs outward) is necessary for ballet.

    A LETTER, WORD, OR PHRASE USED AS A LINGUISTIC EXAMPLE

    A WORD AS AN EXAMPLE

    Place a new, technical, key word, or label in italics.

    Thereafter, it can be written in without italics.

    (APA 4.21) (CMOS 7.79)

    The ducking effect in the sound editor can be applied to a music track when a speech track is present.

    The average tweeter checks his or her Twitter account more than twenty times a day.

    She pocket dialed him, a situation in which a phone is activated by the movement of one's pocket or purse and then accidentally sends a call.

    The blue team has to go to the other side of the field.

    The file introduction.docx can be opened from the File menu.

    INTRODUCTION OF A NEW TECHNICAL TERM

    A TECHNICAL TERM

    Place foreign words that are not found in an English dictionary in italics.

    Common words such as hors d'oeuvre, in vitro and rendezvous found in an English dictionary should not be italicized. (They are italicized in this example because they are given as word examples.)

    UNFAMILIAR FOREIGN WORDS & PHRASE

    Young Greeks talk of sweeping away the kleftes (thieves) in the parliament building.

    Blake's joie de vivre makes him a favorite among friends.

    FOREIGN WORD (NOT IN ENGLISH DICTIONARY)

    Use italics for words not found in Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 2005. (APA 4.21)

    (CMOS "first occurence of foreign terms" 7.49-50)

    His droit de seigneur (the lord's right) manner caused his ruin. (APA 4.21)


    His "droit de seigneur" manner, meaning the lord of the land has first right to choose of his serfs' goods and daughters, caused his ruin. (AP 99)

    BIOLOGY

    BIOLOGY TERMS (GREEK AND LATIN)

    Italicize words in biology referring to species and varieties. (genes, genera)

    (CMOS 8.131)

    The botanical name for the Valley Oak is Quercus lobata.


    Leprosy was caused by Mycobacterium leprae.

    MATH VARIABLES

    MATH VARIABLE

    Italicize math variables.

    (CMOS 12.10-12)

    a/b = c/d, sinX, logX

    MUSICAL TERMS

    MUSICAL TERMS (ITALIAN)

    Italicize musical terms for dynamics.

    (CMOS 7.71)

    piano, mezzoforte, andante

    SHIPS AND AIRCRAFT

    SHIPS, PLANES AND TRAINS

    Italicize and capitalize the name of a ship, aircraft, space craft, or train.

    (CMOS 8.115-7)

    The spacecraft Challenger will make its last flight in June 2011.

    The USS Arizona lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor as a memorial.

    Exercise

    Edit the following sentences to correct errors in the use of italics. If a sentence looks correct, write “correct” after it.

    1. Once one of the largest cruise liners in the world, The Queen Mary in Long Beach no longer ventures past the harbor.
    2. Film audiences were once taken back by the fact that Clark Gable did not war an undershirt in It Happened One Night.
    3. The short story Birth by Ramona Ausubel has always been one of my favorites.
    4. The word automobile comes from both Greek and Latin phrases.
    5. The New York Times is considered by many to be the paper of record.
    6. The poetry collection Devotions by Mary Oliver contains many fine poems.

    Contributors and Attributions


    4.12: Italics is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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