Students often overuse italics in their essays and theses. Here are some facts about italics that can help improve your writing:
- Italics can be used for foreign language words. For example, ‘It was a quid pro quo agreement’. However, note that ‘et. al’, ‘ibid’, ‘e.g.’ and other Latin words used in referencing are not italicised according to most major style guides, including APA Style and the Chicago Manual of Style.
- Italics can be used for algebraic letters in formulae. For example, ‘The x is equal to 5.1’.
- Italics can be used to emphasise a word. For example, ‘The assessment was made before the interviews’. However, if you overuse italics, they lose their power and can be distracting to the reader. It is better to avoid using italics for emphasis in formal writing.
- If you wish to italicise a word in a direct quotation, you will need to clarify that they are your italics by inserting ‘[emphasis added]’ immediately after the italics. For example, ‘This is a direct [emphasis added] quotation’.
- Italics are used for major titles of works, such as for books, films, websites and newspapers. However, they not used for smaller works that are part of bigger works, such as chapters, journal articles, webpages and songs. For example, ‘The article ‘Five Fast Facts about Italics’ appears on the Editex website’.
Good luck with your writing—and use your italics wisely!