Italics (when to italicize)

There are different schools of thought on when to use italics, but most style guides agree on a few points:

  • It’s okay to occasionally use italics for emphasis, but avoid doing it too much. Instead, use sentence construction to emphasize important words.
  • Italicize foreign words or phrases that are unlikely to be familiar to most of your readers. But loanwords and loan phrases that are well established in English don’t need to be italicized.
  • Italicize words presented as words (e.g., the word the).
  • Italicize letters presented as letters (e.g., the letter q).
  • Italicize titles of publications and large works (e.g., The New York Times, Citizen Kane, Pride and Prejudice, What to Expect When You’re Expecting).

At Grammarist, to avoid a clutter of quotation marks, we use italics for quoted words and phrases and for definitions that aren’t integrated into sentences—for example:

The idiom to boot, meaning in addition to or besides, has nothing to do with footwear.

This suits our needs, but it’s by no means standard. Most publications do use italics for words presented as words, but in general they use quotation marks for quoted text.

4 thoughts on “Italics (when to italicize)”

    • It is to highlight a word as a word. For ex., The word ‘the’ is used in English language too often or The word the is used in English language too often.

  1. Two thoughts: 1. “clutter of quotation marks” is a rather harsh treatment of ordinary, common good punctuation. 2. Italics are seldom an option when writing from home. The usually available home methods of writing by hand, whether cursive or hand lettered, or by computer, unless you are an expert user of powerful word processing software provide little or no opportunity for italics usage. Try it in a comment, to see what I mean.

  2. When writing books, I use italics to certain word to provide a more powerful meaning to that sentence or if someone is thinking but not speaking out loud I sometimes use italics.


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