Definitions Wiki

When and How to Use Italics in Writing: A Guide with Examples

Italic font, often known as italics, is a typeface design where the text looks slanted. Italics are typically employed to emphasize specific words or paragraphs. Still, the typeface is also crucial for setting off titles and names of things like books, movies, and even spacecraft from other texts.

There is a lot of misunderstanding over which titles should be in italics and which should be in quotation marks. Therefore, we’ve included a comprehensive explanation of italics below, covering both when to use them and when to avoid them.

What Do Italics Mean?

Italics are a typeface in typography, just as bold, underlined, and regular roman. Although it is now only slanted text, the design’s initial goal was to reproduce calligraphy and handwriting in print. The style is called after Italy since its initial creators, Aldus Manutius, and Ludovico Arrighi, were both Italian.

Italics are used for several purposes, including:

Emphasis: To emphasize a word or phrase within a sentence, such as “I really want that cake.”

Titles: To format the titles of works such as books, films, and television shows, such as “The Great Gatsby“.

Foreign Words: To indicate a word or phrase in a different language than the surrounding text, such as “bon appétit.”

Thoughts and Words Spoken Aloud: To indicate thoughts or words spoken aloud within a piece of writing, such as “I wonder what the weather will be like,” she thought.

Letters and words referred to as such: To indicate when letters or words are referred to as such, such as “the letter A“.

Letters as mathematical variables: To indicate a letter used as a mathematical variable, such as “Let x be the length of the rectangle.

It’s essential to follow the conventions of your style guide, as guidelines may vary.

What Does The Italic Font Serve?

Similar to how bold and underlined fonts are used in writing, italics are employed to distinguish certain words. To separate the titles and names of specific works, like books and plays, from other forms of works, such as articles and poetry, academic writing has given italics a more significant role (which uses quotation marks instead).

Italics are particularly significant for the works cited page, where they are used to denote certain categories of sources. The names of content collections, such as journals and websites, are frequently in italics, while the shorter works inside, such as articles, are in quotation marks.

Are Movie Titles Italicized Or In Quotes?

Italics are used for play titles, TV programs, and movie titles. The names of lengthier works are often italicized, whereas shorter pieces are typically quoted. So, although the title of a TV episode is placed in quotations, the name of the TV show is written in italics.

Are Poem Titles Italicized Or In Quotes?

The majority of poetry titles use quotation marks. The names of small poems are always in quotation marks, but the markers of epic poems, which are books’ worth of poetry, are in italics.

When Do Italics Apply?

Lengthy Literary Works

The names of more significant written works, such as books, volumes, dissertations, reports, and epic poetry, are in italics.

Astrophysics is explained in A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking in a manner that is accessible to all readers.

The classic madeleine incident is found in Swann’s Way, the first book of Marcel Proust’s masterwork In Search of Lost Time.

Epic poems like Gilgamesh or The Iliad make up a large portion of classic literature.

Whether to italicize or underline book titles is debatable, yet both conventions are universally recognized. Italicizing is used more frequently than highlighting since most writing today is typewritten.

News Outlets, Publications, And Publications

Periodical names are italicized, particularly those of news websites, journals, and newspapers. However, the terms of individual articles are enclosed in quotation marks. Italics and quotations are not used in the headlines of websites or social media platforms that do not include news content.

Ironically, neither The New York Times nor The New Yorker is frequently read by New Yorkers. LinkedIn sent me a link to HuffPost.

Plays, Movies, And TV

The names of motion pictures, plays, and television programs are italicized. However, the terms of specific TV program episodes are in quotation marks.

Most fans concur that “Pickle Rick” is the finest Rick and Morty episode.

An animated movie called The Lion King is partially based on Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet.

Radio Programs And Podcasts

The titles of podcasts and radio programs are in italics, while the titles of the individual episodes are in quotation marks.

The musical artist Phil Collins is featured in the episode “Break-Up” of the radio program The American Life.

Long Musical Works, Operas, And Music Cds

Individual song names are enclosed in quotations, while the titles of music albums and lengthier musical works are italicized.

Tim McGraw is the opening track on Taylor Swift’s self-titled album.

The Lodron Concerto and other less well-known Mozart compositions are frequently overshadowed by his opera The Magic Flute.

When Shouldn’t You Use Italics?

Quick Writing Pieces

Extended writing titles are italicized; the brief essay utilizes quotation marks. This contains chapter titles, short story titles, most poetry titles, and names of articles.

The line “What happens to a dream deferred?” comes from Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem.”

Geographic Names For Places, Landmarks, And Other Things

The names of geographical places, such as cities, states, and nations, are capitalized, but neither italics nor quotations are used.

The Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River.

Religious Writings

Religious text titles are capitalized but neither italicized nor surrounded by quotation marks.

Texts such as the Koran and the Torah are full of wisdom from the ages.

With Bold Or Underlined

Italics should not be used with other stylized typefaces like bold or underlined. Only one can be used simultaneously because they are all intended to make text stand out.

The Great Gatsby or The Great Gatsby is incorrect.

The Great Gatsby is correct.

But when writing online, you can underline emphasized text if it’s a hyperlink.


In conclusion, italics is a helpful formatting tool in written communication that can be used for emphasis, titles of works, foreign words, mathematical variables, thoughts and spoken words, and letters or words referred to. It’s essential to follow the conventions of your specific style guide for consistent and accurate use of italics in your writing.