When to Use Italics: When and Why to Use Italics

Italics give text a slanted effect. It is used to highlight specific words or parts, and titles such as books, movies, and even magazines.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the words that should have italics and which should not.

You’ll find all of the information you need regarding italics here, including when and how to use them.

What is Italics?

Oftentimes, italics are used for emphasis and contrast that is used to draw attention to a part of the work.

Italics can be written as slanted letter or the conventional method is to underline.

When to Use Italics

Creative writing

Italics is used in creative writing to depict a character’s inner monologue or ideas. Quotation marks are used to indicate spoken words.


The main use of italics is to show emphasis in a sentence.

Put a word phrase or passage in italics to make it stand out and get the readers to see more meaning to what was written.

‘I hope you don’t have another crisis,’ he told her.

Long works

The titles of longer written works, such as books, volumes, dissertations, reports, and epic poetry, are in italics.

The well-known Madeleine incident can be found in the first volume of Marcel Proust’s masterwork, In Search of Lost TimeSwann’s Way.

While some people disagree, most people think that book titles should be italicized or underlined. Since most people write on computers these days, italicizing is more popular than underlining.

Movies, Plays, TV

Write the titles of movies, stage plays and TV shows in italics. But, the names of TV show episodes are written in quotes.

The Lion King is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

News websites, magazines, and newspapers

Names of news websites, magazines, and newspapers are written in italics. The title of an article in these periodicals uses quotation marks.

Apps and video games; Music albums, operas, and long musical compositions

Apps and video games are seen as long-published works, their title can be written in italics. However, these are not italicized; board games, card games, and other games.

Also, if it is a company and not the name of the app itself, use either italics or quotation marks.

Song names use quotes while the names of music albums and long musicals are in italics.

The titles of classic arts, paintings, and sculptures use italics.

Use an italic font to write the names of legal cases.

Vehicle names

Ships, aircraft, spacecraft, and train names are in italics. The names of smaller vehicles like cars, and bikes are not in italics.

Foreign words

Words from other languages are in italics so the reader will not confuse them for English words.

In English language, some words are borrowed from other languages and the common words are not in italics.

Discussing words and letters

If a word is under discussion like this article, Italics is written in italics. This explains to the reader that you are discussing the word.

Italics are also used if you are explaining a new word you just introduced.

Letters of the alphabet are written in italics.

When not to use Italics

Short written work

For long writing, use italics for the titles; for short writing, use quotation marks. This covers the titles of most poems, chapters, short stories, and essays.

 Location, landmarks, and more geographic names

Cities, states, and nations are examples of geographic locations are capitalized.

Religious text

Religious literature names are capitalized.

Using bold or underline

Avoid combining italics with other styles such as bold and underline.

Example: The Great Gatsby or The Great Gatsby (incorrect)

The Great Gatsby (correct)

Tip: bear in mind that when writing online, you can underline a word in italics if there’s a hyperlink on it. 

FAQs in italics

What do the italics mean?

Italics are words that appear slanted.

When can italics be used?

In writing and art, legal cases, vehicles, and some titles. Additionally, italics are used to draw attention to specific words or phrases, such as foreign terms and scientific names.  

When should one avoid using italics?

The titles of short works, such as poems, essays, short stories, and song titles, belong in quote marks and should not be written in italics. Names of places and religious texts are capitalized.


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