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While reviewing several stories (and even dealing with mine), it gets a bit confusing trying to decide where to use italics or what words to underline. The aim of this newsletter is to give you a general guideline on proper usage, so your short story is made a little bit better.
Italic type slants to the right. Without this special typeface, writers preparing manuscripts by hand or typing must substitute underling the italics to distinguish such things as titles, foreign words, special names of vehicles, and words used as words. Italics or underlining can also show readers when to stress words that convey especially important ideas.
Titles are marked either with quotation marks or with italics. As a general rule, italics are used for complete works; quotation marks, for parts of works. If you underline to represent italics, do not break the line. An unbroken line displays the title as a single unit and facilitates reading.
Although publishers do not always agree about when to use italics and when to use quotation marks, it is common practice to italicize the following kinds of titles.
Books and Book-Length Poems
The Red Badge of Courage
The Short Stories of Saki
Four Screen Plays of Ingmar Bergman
Plays and Movies
Crimes of the Heart
Reports and Long Pamphlets
Handbook of Utilization of Aquatic Plants
A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform
Newspapers, Magazines and, Journals
(Predominant practice is not to italicize the word the beginning a title)
the Washington Post
the New Republic
Art in America
Journal of Dental Research
Operas, Symphonies, Ballets, Albums
Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier
Horowitz at the Met
Paul Simon’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon
Television and Radio Series
The Jack Benny Show
Paintings and Sculpture
Absinthe Drinkers by Degas
Guernica by Picasso
Sky Cathedral by Louise Nevelson
Three Way Piece No. 2 by Henry Moore
NOTE: Remember to consider the punctuation following a title.
Italicize punctuation that is a part of a title.
They are acting in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Do not italicize sentence punctuation that follows a title.
Have you ever read Babbitt?
Do not italicize an apostrophe or an apostrophe plus an s that is added to a title.
The Counterfeiters’ plot
EXCEPTIONS: Do not italicize the following titles:
Names of standard dictionaries and encyclopedias unless referred to by their formal names.
Webster’s Dictionary (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary)
Random House Dictionary (The Random House Dictionary of the English Language)
Americana (Encyclopedia Americana)
Names of standard religious books
Directories and catalogs
Atlanta Telephone Directory
JC Penny Catalog
The title of a composition when it appears on a title page or at the top of the first page of a manuscript.
The Trouble with Televisions
The Unforgettable Miss Sternberger
Italics/Underlining for Words, Numbers, and Letters Used as Such
When a word, letter, or number refers to itself rather than to its usual meaning, italics alert readers to this special use. Compare, for example, the following two sentences. In the first, dog has its usual meaning of canine animal; in the second, it refers to the word dog.
The dog barked.
Dog comes from Anglo-Saxon.
Compare the use of 225 in the next two sentences. In the first, 225 refers to a quantity; in the second, it refers to the number itself.
We planted 225 tulip bulbs in front of the courthouse.
Someone had written 225 in the wet cement.
Often this special use is signaled by the insertion of “the word”, “the letter,” “the number”, or some other appropriate description.
In a legal document, the word said refers to something or someone previously mentioned.
His shirts are monogrammed with the letters HHC.
Even when the signal is not present, it can be easily supplied.
He says you know after every sentence.
He says the words you know after every sentence.
Southerners sometimes drop a final r.
Southerners sometimes drop a final r sound.
The British put two e’s in judgment.
The British put two letter e’s in the word judgment.
NOTE: Words that refer to themselves can appear in quotation marks instead of italics.
Italics/Underlining for Sounds
Italicize sounds that are represented by words or combinations of letters.
The music had a recurrent ta ta ta tum refrain.
With a whoosh-thump, the golf club sent the white ball over the fairway.
Italics/Underlining for Foreign Words
Italicize foreign names of the scientific genus and species of animals and plants.
The new threat to the marsh is Hydrilla verticillata, which can choke out all other life.
Italicize foreign words that are not considered part of the vocabulary of English.
People assume that movies with gladiators, casts of thousands, and elaborate costumes must ipso facto be bad.
On the ship we ate the tourist-class salle à manger.
Some foreign words are in such common use that they are now considered English. For example, words such as ex officio, ballet, connoisseur, and debut, though originally Latin and French, no longer need italicizing. When you are sure a word of foreign origin is familiar to your audience, you need not italicize it.
Italics/Underlining for Vehicles Designated by Proper Names
Italicize the proper names of ships, aircraft, and spacecraft.
Italics/Underlining for Emphasis
You can italicize words for emphasis, but you should use this device in moderation. Overuse negates its impact.
The department’s expenditures are edging toward the 300-billion-dollar mark.
She works all day as a secretary, and she still likes to type.