Punctuation Style: Italics

Italics are used to indicate emphasis, to mark foreign terms and expressions not commonly used, and to highlight titles of publications and names of certain vehicles such as ships, spacecraft, and the like.


Occasionally, italics are used to stress certain words or phrases. This usage is more common in dialogue than in formal writing and should be kept to a minimum.

    • “I didn’t want blue paint; I wanted lavender paint!”
    • “Mr. Lloyd, you told the prosecutor that you didn’t meet Mrs. Young until last month. Is that right?”
    • On the basis of the field inspector’s report, I recommend that we shutdown offshore drilling platform #45.

Foreign Words and Phrases

Foreign words and phrases that are not part of common usage are italicized.

    • The motto of the Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis—always faithful.
    • As they say, ende gut, alles gut: all’s well that ends well.

However, many foreign words have been in common use long enough that they are no longer italicized. Check the dictionary for the latest usage.

    • Her paintings were very avant-garde.
    • At one time the motto caveat emptor—let the buyer beware—was the rule in business.
    • Her clothes are chic, her decor passé.
    • The military junta declared a 7:00 pm curfew.


The titles of plays, books, magazines, newspapers, movies, and other types of periodicals and publications are italicized when they appear in print. If the first word of a title is a, an, or the, it is italicized only if it is part of the actual name.

    • The Wall Street Journal (newspaper)
    • the Los Angeles Times (newspaper)
    • Angels in America (play)
    • The Insider (corporate publication)
    • Editorial Eye (newsletter)
    • Esquire (magazine)
    • Spider-Man (movie)
    • Redbook (magazine)
    • The Da Vinci Code (book)


Use italics for the names of ships, spacecraft, airplanes, and other well-known vehicles

    • the battleship Excalibur
    • the spaceship Enterprise
    • the shuttle Columbia
    • the Titanic
    • the President’s jet Air Force One