Are You Quoting Italic Text?

Quoting Italic TextPhoto license

Why should you care about italic type? If you learned to type on a typewriter, you are probably still using quotes instead of italic because that was the only option. Now that you don’t have that limitation, let’s have a look at where italic type is appropriate.

One or more words in a sentence need extra emphasis. “Your writing isn’t that bad.”

Titles of books, songs, movies and magazines. “I would have to say that Ichi the Killer is the sickest, most twisted movie I’ve ever seen.”

A character’s thoughts in fiction. “I’m gonna have to beat that idiot or he’ll never catch on that our friendship is over, thought Hercule.”

Defining or introducing terms. “When I talk about world-views I mean anything that can pass as a philosophy, even the silliest of plans.”

Foreign language words that don’t have acceptable substitutes (or that you don’t want to substitute). “Heidegger’s dasein is never made entirely clear.”

A word used as an example instead of in its normal context. “There are several different meanings for trailer in English.”

Referencing a number or letter as itself. “Aniki was more than a little curious about the K3 written on the corner of the ransom note.”

Clashing Italics

A bonus italics problem you may encounter is when italics apply to more than one case in the same sentence. When this happens, you make the larger phrase italic and restore the phrase or word within it to non-italic. “If I loan The Dark Tower series to Bob, I’ll never see it again, thought Doug.”

At least it’s a short list. Were you already using italics in all these cases? Were you even using quotes? Whatever the case, now you can get it right.

Article by Ivan Izo.


2 thoughts on “Are You Quoting Italic Text?

  1. Mike July 10, 2011 / 5:52 am

    Hi David,
    Now I realize that I use both, quotes and italics indiscriminately. A natural question that arises is when to use quotes. A follow-up post? 🙂

    I wonder why you don’t have italics in text. Is that on purpose, to make the reader think?


    • David Smith July 11, 2011 / 10:12 am

      You caught me, Mike. I forgot to italicize the italic text. I copy and paste my articles from the text version so that no weird formats are carried over. Then I update the formatting by visually comparing the web page to the doc version. Italics doesn’t stand out and I missed it even though it was the topic of the article. I’ve added “Check for italics.” to my WordPress Submission Process file.

      An article on when to use quotation marks would be even shorter. Quotes are for the exact words someone has said or written. Single quotes are for a quote inside of another quote.


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