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How to Use Italics


Writers use italics to clarify their ideas. Employ italics to indicate the title of a publication, indicate a word used as a term, clarify information from a study or mathematical equation, signal a scientific name or emphasize ideas, particularly when quoting from an outside source.

Italicizing Conventions

Italicize titles of publications such as books, journals, magazines, newspapers, TV shows, movies, plays, albums, websites, paintings and sculptures. If you need to clarify a word's usage as a term, italicize it. For instance, in the sentence, "The term logos stems from the Greek," the word "logos" could be italicized. To explain terms or ideas in formulas or data, use italics, such as when explaining on a scale, "1 (low) to 10 (high)." In this case, "low" and "high" might be in italics. Scientific names such as Lepomis cyanellus appear in italics.

Italics for Emphasis

Some instructors feel writers should avoid italics for emphasis, but Modern Language Association guidelines indicate italics are appropriate for stressing ideas within quotes. In such structures, add the phrase "emphasis added" in the citation so that your reader knows the original did not use italics. When using American Psychological Association or Chicago style, avoid using italics for emphasis unless the reader would otherwise become confused by the structure.

About the Author

Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.

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