When to Put Words in Italics for APA Papers

The American Psychological Association's (APA) guide for scholarly writing explains the format for text and references for academic papers. APA style explains the elements used in a reference and the font size and appearance of text. Font appearance can be changed by using italics. APA style dictates the use of italics in a citation or in the text of a paper.

Book Titles

The APA manual requires all references to book titles to appear in italics. Therefore, when preparing the bibliography of a paper that uses APA style, you must italicize all book titles. This requirement also applies to book titles mentioned in the text of the paper.

Foreign Words

Scientific papers and legal scholarship frequently employ foreign words and jargon. The APA style manual specifies that words borrowed from other languages also must be italicized. Therefore, the APA style requires italics type face for abbreviated terms borrowed from Latin, including "i.e." and "e.g."

Special Terminology

APA style rules require the use of italics to alert the reader that a term has a special meaning. Therefore, if you are using a term of art or a word that is meant to be cast ironically or as slang, italicize the word. APA style requires the use of italics only in the first instance that the word or terminology appears in the paper. All subsequent use of the term can be in the regular type face (font).


Italics type face adds emphasis to a word or a phrase. In such a case, the choice to use italics belongs to the author. The APA style manual recognizes that the use of italics in such a case is to draw the reader's attention to a particular point that is being made by the author.

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