What Should Be Italicized in Essay Writing?

Aug 31, 2020


In the not-so-distant past, students had to write their essays by hand or using a typewriter. No typewriter had italics or bold letters back then. So, when one needed to emphasize a word or sentence fragment, they had to underline it or put it in quotation marks. 

However, modern computers and word processors changed the writing game.

Programs like Microsoft Word came with the possibility of italicizing and writing in bold letters. So, the new writing guidelines were updated to include the options for emphasizing text in any paper.

Today, you can either italicize or include the word in quotation marks depending on size and other factors. 

What should I italicize?

Let’s take a look at what you should italicize in your essay.

  1. Titles of full bodies of work should be italicized. These include books, movies, plays, artwork, albums, magazines, newspapers, journals, and other forms of large volume publications.

Example: “I am reading The Lord of The Rings.”

Example: “He published an article in The Chicago Tribune.”

  1. Foreign language words or technical terms should be italicized so that the reader will heed the difference from the rest of the text.

Example: “When the moon hits your eyes like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.

  1. The names of trains, aircraft, ships, and other forms of vehicular transportation should be italicized.

Example: “What happened to the Challenger?”

  1. You can italicize any word in a sentence to add extra emphasis.

Example: “Microsoft is the only tech company with a foundation.”

What should not be italicized?

Not all compositions should appear in italics. You can also use quotation marks to emphasize a title.

Here are the situations where you should avoid using italics.

1.  Don’t italicize parts of a larger work. If you mention a book chapter, verse in a poem, newspaper section, or song in an album, you need to include the title in quotation marks.

Example: “Father Stretch My Hands” is the best song on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo.

2. If you are referring to a religious book like the Bible or Torah, you should neither italicize nor include them in quotation marks.

Example: The Bible and the Torah are both holy books.

Ultimately, italicize full bodies of works for emphasis. Enclose parts of complete works in quotation marks. Religious books should be left ‘untouched’. Always remember this rule whenever you are writing an essay.


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