By Lydia Oyetunji
“Grammar to a writer is to a mountaineer a good pair of hiking boots or, more precisely, to a deep-sea diver an oxygen tank.” ― A.A. Patawaran
Have you ever read an essay or blog post and noticed that the author went extremely overboard with their use of italics? Recently, I had this experience while I was on one of my coffee breaks perusing blogs that I follow. Totally absorbed in the post, I read on until I came to two fully italicized paragraphs. I thought to myself, “What I’m about to read must be very interesting. What could possibly be so deserving of such emphasis?” My curiosity was at its peak, so I continued. I’m sorry to say but what I read was not worthy of such a meaningful font.
What are some examples of the proper use of italics?
There is a proper way to use italics in our writing no matter which of the following style guides we use: APA, MLA, Chicago Manual of Style, AP, or a simple blog post. I do believe it’s important to add a certain flare or je ne sais quoi to your compositions, but it must be done with care. It’s counter productive to write a piece worth reading only to distract your reader with overused and poorly placed italics.
Italics are used to show emphasis or to denote titles of stand- alone works.
Using italics for emphasis.
Italics are most commonly used to emphasize a single word or phrase. An example of proper use of an italicized word or phrase is shown below.
- Lydia loves Two Drops of Ink. The emphasis is on ‘love’ to give the word more of an emotional overtone.
- Two Drops of Ink won a literary award! This example points out a fact that is important to the writer as well as exciting to inform the reader.
When referencing words or nouns, the use of italics allows them to stand out in the crowd of written words. It may be fun to use that attractive, slightly fancy slanted-font to stress importance but it’s better in moderation.
More helpful tips for using italics.
Quick question. Is it good practice to italicize and underline a title? If you said ‘no’ then a Two Drops of Ink hip-hip hooray to you! Generally, titles of novels, names of periodicals like newspapers and magazines, and TV shows should all be in italics. It’s interesting that religious works are not in italics nor underlined, this includes any books within the religious mediums. They should only be capitalized. I found this rule kind of interesting. The fiend that I am for information, I found myself emailing the editor Scott and his wife Lori at 10 PM to pick their seasoned literary brains. I diligently searched all day for the information that refused to reveal itself. Needless to say, I was provided with a jewel called “Chicago Manual of Style.”
Titles and the use of italics can get a little tricky. Some experts say it is the writer’s choice whether they choose to italicize book titles. Although, it is a rule to only italicize the punctuation if it is a part of the title. In my opinion, book titles should always be italicized and underlining to the discretion of the writer.
There’s more to italicize… onomatopoeia and foreign words.
Meow, phew, kerplunk! These words are not the sound of me having a breakdown, they are examples of onomatopoeia. Words that sound like sounds used in a sentence should be in italics, as well as the punctuation that follows. Foreign words that are not ordinarily used in English writing should be in italics but words that we are most familiar with like “bon voyage” should not.
To italicize or not italicize? It’s Whenever in doubt reference the Chicago Manual of Style and if you’re still in doubt… Don’t! As composers of the literary symphony, we all want to create our own style. While creating our own style, it’s important that we respect literary rules. Writing is a fun, creative process to be enjoyed but not at the risk of distracting the reader.
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