How To Italicize Properly

Overuse of italics proves to be a common pitfall for writers, who are often unaware of the proper use of this typography feature. To many individuals italics are little more than a way to jazz-up a font; however, by learning italics' usages, they would improve the quality of any text.

Italics emphasize a word or phrase in a sentence. An example of this would be: "Are you really going to wear that?" With emphasis given to the word really, the reader can imply a level of sarcasm or disdain.

Italics add flavor to dialogue,m with numerous words each having equal possibility of being italicized depending on a character's speech habits. As methods of emphasis, italics can draw attention to important details- e.g. "Do not mix bleach with ammonia." However, it is important to not overuse italics, as they can break a reader's concentration if used too often.

When citing titles sometimes you use italics, while other times you don't; this is determined by the length of the work you are citing. Books like The Kitchen Boy are italicized, and so are films, long musical works, long poems, magazines/journals, newspapers, artwork, pamphlets, plays, radio series, recordings, software, television series, and websites. Smaller works are put in quotation marks. Vehicle names such as Titantic or Mustang are italicized as well.

In pieces that require the use of foreign languages, italics are used to highlight and alert the reader to foreign words, such as in the following sentence: "The German word Gesundheit is uttered after a person sneezes to wish her good health." This rule also includes Latin binary nomenclatures like Felis catus, the cat.

Words that appear in a sentence as an example also get the italic treatment as shown by this sentence, "The word guy is derived from the conspirator Guy Fawkes around 1800-10." Similarly, letters or numbers being written as themselves are italicized- e.g. "The name Grimm has two m's present." Some textbooks italicize text when introducing key terms like "Physicians examine the x-ray closely for broken bones." Letters present in algebraic equations, physic quantities, and other mathematical constants are likewise italicized.

Short stories and novels often use italics to portray character thoughts or flashbacks; this, however, depends on a writer's style. Sounds, too, can be italicized, depending on style.

These guidelines are here to help determine what needs italicization, though it will depend somewhat on your own tastes and style; always remain mindful of the amount of italics you use.


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