Using italics is a common practice to emphasize a particular phrase, thought, foreign vocabulary, or title. Italics are a useful mechanism, and the sole purpose of italics in literature is to highlight the text and make it distinguished.
However, there are some rules attached to when to use italics. Your text can be highly engaging if you use italics correctly. In this article, we will guide you through tips and techniques of when to use italics and when not to use italics with the help of examples.
When to Use Italics in Titles:
Just to keep in mind, not all the titles will be italicized. If the author refers to a specific book, TV show, magazine, play, long poem, blog, music album, film, or artistic work, they should be italicized.
There is an unexpected twist in the book fault in our Stars.
Yesterday we were watching Friends during our night stay.
Hamlet is amongst the most famous works of Shakespeare. It is the most exemplary play of all.
Taylor Swift’s Red is one of my favorite albums. Its song ‘everything is changed’ is the most heard song.
When referring to short poems, individual songs, short stories, articles, or essays, make sure to put them in inverted commas rather than making them italicized. Individual pieces of work are not italicized. Example: Yesterday we were watching ‘The Rehearsal Dinner’ from How I met your mother.
The Journal of Biomedical Sciences helped me a lot in the recent project.
Uncle Fred likes to read The New York Times every morning.
When italicizing the titles, make sure not to italicize ‘The’ even if it is included in the title name. Instead, you will capitalize ‘The’ before the title name. Example: The Times of India.
When to Use Italics in Academic Writing:
Mainly, here we will be discussing two academic writing styles, i.e., APA and MLA. You might be familiar with the styles, so let’s just review them.
When to Use Italics In APA:
Do you italicize articles in APA? The answer to this question is no. In APA style, you don’t italicize most of the time. Firstly, it is not recommended. And secondly, it is difficult for computers to distinguish the italicized text.
Therefore, many web writers prefer to underline or put quotation marks to highlight a subject. The article titles are not italicized, whether it’s an APA in-text citation or bibliography. In APA, if you are not 100% sure, then probably you should not italicize an article.
Secondly, while you are writing the bibliography, it is recommended to italicize the newspaper, journals, and podcasts. But, make sure not to use the title case. The first letter of the journal title is always capitalized.
Example: Italics in APA 7th edition:
Ferrara, P., Franceschini, G., Villani, A., &Corsello, G. (2019). Physical, psychological, and
Social impact of school violence on children. Italian Journal of Pediatrics, 45(1).
When to use italics in MLA:
MLA style of writing is a universal form of academic writing. However, MLA citations may or may not use italics for the titles. You can italicize the titles of a book, play, or standalone work rather than underlining them.
You can also italicize the phrases you might want to highlight. However, it is not recommended to do so most of the time.
When to Italicize In A Story:
In a story, if you want to emphasize a specific phrase, you can italicize it. For example, I asked her if she is going to the party, she responded with No.
While you are writing an essay, you should know when to italicize essays. If you are quoting a particular phrase from a book, you may italicize it. You can also italicize the titles of the books, plays, TV shows, movies, albums, and newspapers.
When to Use Italics in Writing: Situations and Conditions:
In writing, there are some situations where using italics is applicable and acceptable:
- Quoting a word from a foreign language: If you are citing something from a foreign language other than English, you should italicize it. Example: She waved and said adiós me gusta when she was about to leave for her flight.
People almost understand words like Hola or Alumni. So, they are not required to be italicized. If you use a phrase from a foreign language, make sure that your audience understands the significance behind that. If it is not important, then skip it. Another idea is to put the meanings in brackets to avoid confusion.
- Species or subspecies names are always italicized. For example, in Botany, we learned about Datura alba. It is such a beautiful flower.
- Sacred text titles are never italicized. However, the specific editions or chapter names are italicized. For example, the sacred book “Bible” is always capitalized. However, if you are quoting a specific edition, the title of the edition will be italicized. Example: I saw The New American Standard Bible on her bookshelf yesterday.
When to Use Italics in Writing Literature: Emphasis and Contrast
Italicizing to drive attention: Emphasis:
Words and Phrases
You might have seen in novels or in books that the author italicizes the words where they want to shift the readers’ attention. While you are writing a fictional story, you can italicize the words or phrases where you want people to think or reflect.
It is an art of emphasis. You emphasize certain words to highlight them so that they are noticed by the person who is reading.
you didn’t tell me that it was you who ate the burritos.
Can you imagine this? He brought hundreds of balloons for me on my birthday.
This often happens when you are writing a criminal case story. If you want your audience to know about a particular thing or want them to remember it, you can italicize that too.
Numbers or Terminologies
In creative writing, if you want to emphasize a specific number or a letter, it is recommended to italicize it. Secondly, all the terminologies which are unique to the reader should be italicized, such as a scientific term.
Please remind me that there are 7 books in this bag.
She will turn 18 this coming Monday.
Professor marked B on his math paper.
The acid-base reaction is scientifically known as neutralization.
Italicizing the thoughts:
At times in creative writing, you might want to emphasize a character’s thoughts or maybe memory. You can italicize such texts to make them look different, especially when you want to distinguish between two tenses.
It is a matter of style convention, which is why it is not required to do so. If your text includes narration, you can use italics to make it look different.
- If the story is based on one character’s thoughts/ narration:
Am I dreaming? this can’t be true! “Oh yes, I was at the party last night,” I responded.
Am I dreaming? This can’t be true! “Oh yes, I was at the party last night,” I responded.
- When two or more character’s thoughts are involved:
Michelle saw the boys fighting on the ground. This can’t be happening! She thought.
Michelle saw the boys fighting on the ground. This can’t be happening! She thought.
As mentioned, it is not compulsory to italicize the thought. Especially if the thought is coming from one character only, it is understood by the readers that it is a thought. However, if there are thoughts of a second or a third person, italicizing seems a good idea (And necessary).
Writers often give contrasts in their texts. When giving the contrast or comparison, make sure to italicize the words if you want your audience to notice them. In this way, your audience will be directed towards your objective, and your text will not be unnoticed.
I told her to bake a chocolate cake, not an orange cake. How can someone mishear that?
Are you sure you want one teaspoon of sugar instead of two? No, I mean you usually take two.
How many times will I have to remind you? I am not interested in working with him.
Tip 4: You can italicize one or both words. It entirely depends upon your choice and objective.
In creative writing, while you are writing an essay or a novel, you can use italics in the mentioned way. If you are writing formally for a website or journal, you probably should not use italics.
Italics usually make a text a bit difficult to read. To prevent hindrance in the readability, make sure to use italics less and correctly. If you are italicizing a long paragraph, that might disturb the pace of the reader. All we can advise is to use italics wisely.
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