Of all the typographic styles, italicization may look the most dynamic. Perhaps it\u2019s the way the words slant to the right, as if striding confidently to a business meeting. Or perhaps we\u2019re overthinking this. The point is that italics are a useful, versatile part of writing. But when should you use them?\n\nKey occasions for using italics include:\n\n \tTo emphasize something.\n \tFor titles of standalone works, such as books and movies.\n \tFor vehicle names, such as ships.\n \tTo show that a word is borrowed from another language.\n \tFor the Latin \u201cscientific\u201d names of plant and animal species.\n\nLet\u2019s take a look at each of these to see how they work in practice.\nItalics for Emphasis\nLike bold fonts or underlining, italics are often used for emphasis. This means we can use italics to stress or draw attention to a particular word or phrase:\nItalicization is the best way to emphasize something.\nHere, italicizing best shows that we feel strongly about italics.\n\nGenerally, italics are the standard form of emphasis in academic writing. This is because they look more formal than bold formatting. However, always check your style guide if your university or employer has one, since some organizations have different rules about emphasizing text.\nItalics in Place of Quote Marks\nIt would be unusual to italicize a full quote rather than placing it in quote marks. However, some people do use italics to set single words apart in the same way you might with quotes. For example:\nQuote Marks: The word \u201citalic\u201d comes from a Greek word meaning \u201cItaly.\u201d\nItalics: The word italic comes from a Greek word meaning Italy.\nAs with emphasis, if you are using a style guide, you may want to check whether it allows this. Otherwise, though, italics can be helpful if using too many quote marks makes your writing look cluttered.\nWhen to Use Italics for Titles\nAnother common use of italicization is for titles. Not your own headings \u2013 you can italicize these, but that\u2019s a matter of stylistic preference \u2013 but the titles of published works, such as books. For instance, if we mentioned a work by Charles Dickens in an essay, we would write it like this:\nQueen Victoria read The Old Curiosity Shop in 1841.\nBy using italics, we set the title text apart from the rest of the sentence.\n\nIt\u2019s not just books that you should do this for. Typically, the same applies for any self-contained media product or publication (i.e., something published by itself rather than as part of a collection). This includes the titles of:\n\n \tBooks and book-length poems\n \tAcademic journals (i.e., the journal title itself, not individual article titles)\n \tMagazines and newspapers\n \tMovies, radio programs, and TV shows\n \tPlays and other stage shows\n \tMusic albums and other published audio recordings\n \tPaintings, statues, and other works of art\n\nTitles of shorter works, by comparison, are often placed in quotation marks. However, the rules for presenting titles do vary between style guides.\nItalicizing Vehicle Names\nYou can use italics for the names of individual vehicles, such as a ship or space rocket. For instance, we would italicize the following vehicle names:\nThe sailors boarded the HMS Belfast in silence.\nThe Titanic sank during her maiden voyage.\nHere, we italicize Belfast and Titanic because they\u2019re the proper names of specific ships. We do not italicize the initials preceding names of ships (e.g., HMS, RMS, USS). In addition, you should only italicize the names of individual vehicles. If you\u2019re writing the name of a brand or make of a vehicle (e.g., Ford Escort or Boeing 747), by comparison, you don\u2019t need italics.\nItalicizing Non-English Words\nMake sure to italicize any non-English words you use in English-language writing. This shows the reader that the word was borrowed from another language. For instance, we could say:\nIn Germany, this feeling is known as Waldeinsamkeit.\nThe exact rules for when to italicize foreign words may vary depending on the style guide you check. For instance, most style guides make exceptions for words that are now fairly common in English even if they are still loanwords, so you would not usually need to italicize terms like \u201craison d\u2019\u00eatre.\u201d\n\nIf in doubt, though, you can always check a good dictionary (e.g., the OED or Webster\u2019s). Assuming you can find the word in the dictionary, it should be widely used enough in English to write without italics.\nItalicizing Species Names\nBinomial nomenclature (i.e., the Latin names given to plant and animal species) is usually italicized. For example, we could say:\nNobody wants Amorphophallus titanum growing in their garden.\nAs above, you should also capitalize the first word (i.e., the genus) in scientific plant and animal names, but not the second term (i.e., the species).\nOther Uses for Italics\nThere are occasions when you may want to use italics not covered above. In fact, italics are useful for most situations where you need to make some part of a text distinct. One example comes from creative writing, where some people use italics to indicate an unspoken thought. For instance, we could use italics to show a character\u2019s inner monologue:\nJeff sat silently in the doctor\u2019s office. It wasn\u2019t his usual doctor, so he was already nervous before the needle appeared.\n\u201cDon\u2019t worry,\u201d said the doctor. \u201cIt won\u2019t hurt.\u201d\nEasy for you to say, Jeff thought. It\u2019s not you at the sharp end of that thing. But he kept this to himself, instead uttering a meek \u201cOK.\u201d\nHowever you use italics, though, there are two main rules to follow:\n\n \tTry not to use italics for too many different reasons in a single document. For instance, if you are writing something with a lot of titles and foreign words, you may want to find a different way of formatting emphasis.\n \tIf you use italicized text for any part of a document, apply it consistently. So, for instance, if you\u2019re using italics for loanwords in one part of an essay, you\u2019ll want to do the same throughout the document.\n\nAnd if you need anyone to check your use of italics in a document, our editors are here to help. Just submit your work for proofreading today.