Italics, Quotation Marks, Underscore

General Logic: Underscore was originally used on typewriters because it was impossible to use italics given that there was only one set of keys. These days, underscore often means that a word is ‘hot’ on the computer, and with so much electronic transmission, I would advise against its use for other meanings than that. Instead, employ italics as they were originally meant to be used. Quotation marks can be reserved for short works such as articles in periodicals, book chapters, short poems and songs, and other shorter items. They can also be used to indicate dialogue and other quoted material when italics would be onerous to read.

There are a vast number of individual rules which come under these categories. For more detail, please check with the style book appropriate to your discipline or profession.

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Underscore Resources


Use italics for emphasis, for unfamiliar foreign words and phrases, and for technical terms followed by definitions. Italicize punctuation marks immediately following italicized words. When italic type is not available (for example, in a typewriter or handwritten manuscript), underline to indicate italics; if the manuscript is later set in type, the typesetter will use italics for underlined words.

1. Titles. Italicize the titles of things that can stand by themselves. Thus we differentiate between the titles of novels and journals, say, and the titles of shorter poems, short stories, articles, and episodes (for television shows). The titles of these shorter pieces would be surrounded with double quotation marks. Example: The first chapter of Alice in Wonderland is titled “Down the Rabbit Hole.”

In writing the titles of newspapers, do not italicize the word the, even when it is part of the title (the New York Times), and do not italicize the name of the city in which the newspaper is published unless that name is part of the title: the Hartford Courant, but the London Times. Italicize the titles of comic books, manga, and graphic novels, but put the titles of individual comic strips in quotation marks. Only italicize very long UTube videos such as hour long TED Talks. The short ones go in quotation marks. In general, always defer to the publication’s choices. Italicize titles in these categories as well.
Here are some specific examples:

Green check mark Artworks: Michelangelo’s David, Whistler’s The Artist’s Mother

Green check mark Cinema: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Citizen Kane, Greed

Green check mark Famous Speeches: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Washington’s Second Inaugural Address (when that is the actual title of the speech)

Green check mark Journals and Magazines: Time, U.S. News and World Report, Crazyhorse, Georgia Review

Green check mark Long Poems (that are extensive enough to appear in a book by themselves): Longfellow’s Evangeline, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

Green check mark Long Musical Pieces: Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite (but “Waltz of the Flowers”), Schubert’s Winterreise(but “Ave Maria”). For musical pieces named by type, number and key — Mozart’s Divertimento in D major, Barber’s Cello Sonata Op. 6 — use neither italics nor quotation marks.

Green check mark Plays: Waiting for Godot, Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Green check mark Printed Pamphlets: Treat a pamphlet as you wood a book:
New Developments in AIDS Research.

Green check mark Sacred works and objects:

  • Italicize in titles, and in the individual published editions of sacred texts:The Talmud of the Land of Israel: A Preliminary Translation and Explanation.
    The Upanishads: A Selection for the Modern Writer.
  • Capitalize, but do not italicize, the titles of long sacred works which receive general titles irrelevant of edition or translation such as the Tanakh, Holy Bible, or Qur’an.
  • Do not italicize the titles of books of the Bible:
    Genesis, Revelation, 1 Corinthians.
  • Do not italicize sections of the Bible, prayers, religious events or services, or sacred objects:
  • the Crucifixion,
    the Diaspora,
    the Hegira,
    the Sermon on the Mount.
    “In that film, I counted one mandala, three sacred pipes, two sanctuaries, an ark, and two alters,” Jane noted.

Green check mark Television and Radio Programs: Italicize repeated programs or long programs. Individual episodes or short films, commercials, etc. go in quotation marks.

  • Dateline, Seinfeld, Fresh Air, Car Talk
  • The Seinfeld episode, “The Stakeout.”
  • That “Hey, kid, catch!” Coke commerical.

2. With other punctuation: When an exclamation mark or question mark is part of a title, make sure that that mark is italicized along with the title. Examples:

Green check markI enjoyed Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Green check markI got so tired of reading Dr. Suess’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! It may have caused brain damage. The last words I’ll remember as I grow old and ready to die will probably be, “Things may happen, and often do, to people as brainy and footsy as you”

1)Do not add an additional period to end such sentences.
2) If the end mark is not part of the title, but is added to indicate a
question or exclamation, do not italicize that mark.

Green check markDid you enjoy Matt Reeves’ direction in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?

Green check markActually, I hated everything about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but the kids love How to Train Your Dragon 2!

3. Use italics for emphasis. If you are quoting, and add the emphasis yourself, make that very clear to your audience. Examples:

Green check mark These rules do not apply to newspaper writing.

Green check mark According to the linguist Steven Pinker, “Many prescriptive rules of grammar are just plain dumb and should be deleted from the usage handbooks” [emphasis added].

4. Use italics when discussing the word as a word rather than to use is in the meaning of the sentence in general. If there are extra bits, such as the ‘s plural, italicize them as well. Here is a place where editors and systems vary. Be consistent within your text and with some one style sheet throughout once you’ve chosen a convention to use. Examples:

Green check mark The word basically is often unnecessary and should be removed.

Green check mark There were four and‘s and one therefore in that last sentence. (Notice that the apostrophe-s, used to create the plural of the word-as-word and, is not italicized.

Green check mark If you choose to use quotation marks instead of italics, use only single quote: The word ‘the’, which is a determiner, is more specific than the words ‘a’ or ‘an’, also determiners.

5. Use italics or quotation marks for foreign words, or earlier forms of an English word (Old English, Middle English) that would seem foreign to the present day reader. It is not necessary to italicize words that have come to have current use in English, however. Examples:

Green check mark The French word pathétique is usually best translated as `moving’, not as `pathetic’.

Green check markThe Sicilian tradition of omertà has long protected the Mafia.

Green check mark In Middle English the “General Prologue” of the Canterbury Tales begins, Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote

Green check mark The Old English Beowulf begins, “
Hwæt! We Gar-Dena   in gear-dagum
þeod-cyninga,   þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas   ellen fremedon!

6. Words as reproductions of sound.

Green check mark Grrr! went the bear. (But you would say “the bear growled” because the word growled reports the nature of the sound but doesn’t try to reproduce it. Thus the bees buzz but go bzzzz and dogs bark woof!)

Green check mark His head hit the stairs with a sick krthunk!

7. Call the reader’s attention to a word or phrase that is unfamiliar or is used in a nonstandard way. Use them with care, however; overuse of italics and quotation marks is often seen as affected and patronizing.

Green check markNames of Vehicles
Don’t italicize names of vehicles that are brand names:

Ford Explorer, Corvette, Nissan Pathfinder, Boeing 747.

Do italicize them otherwise, whether real or fictional.

  • Challenger
  • Titanic
  • Orient Express
  • U.S.S. Eisenhower (Don’t italicize the U.S.S., as that just means United States Ship.)
  • H.M.S. Pinafore (Don’t italicize the H.M.S. when you’re talking about the ship for the same reason–it’s Her Majesty’s Ship in that monarchy. If you’re talking about the light opera as a whole and not the ship, however, then it’s italicized as part of the title, H.M.S. Pinafore.)

8. Italics are used in certain disciplines for various specific purposes. Here are two of the commoner ones.

  1. In biology, genus and species names of living creatures are italicized. Extinct species known only from fossils are difficult to assign specific nomenclature to. Where DNA has been retrieved, things get trickier, and where a place within the genus/species logic can be accurately pinned down, it is possible to italicize:
    • The earliest known member of the genus Homo is H. habilis. We are H. sapiens.
    • The cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is a familiar American bird.

    Note that a genus name always has a capital letter, while a species name never does.

  2. In the law, the names of legal cases are italicized. Example:The famous case of Brown vs. Board of Education was a landmark in American legal history.Special note:If you have a sentence containing a phrase which would normally go into italics, and if for some reason the entire sentence needs to be italicized, the the phrase that would normally be in italics goes into ordinary roman type instead. So, if for some reason my last example sentence needs to be italicized, the result looks like this:The famous case of Brown v. Board of Education was a landmark in American legal history.
Italics Quotation Marks Underscore Resources

Quotation Marks

1. Direct quotations. Use a set of quotation marks to enclose each direct quotation included in your writing.

Green check mark Use a capital letter with the first word of a direct quotation of a whole sentence.

Green check mark Do not use a capital letter with the first word of a direct quotation of part of a sentence.

Green check mark If the quotation is interrupted and then continues in your sentence, do not capitalize the second part of the quotation.

Mr. and Mrs. Allen, owners of a 300-acre farm, said, “We refuse to use that pesticide because it might pollute the nearby wells.”

Mr. and Mrs. Allen stated that they “refuse to use that pesticide” because of possible water pollution.

“He likes to talk about football,” she said, “especially when the Super Bowl is coming up.

Note: Paraphrases, summations, and other indirect quotations are not exact words but rather rephrasings of another person’s words.

Green check mark Do not use quotation marks for indirect quotations.

Example: According to their statement to the local papers, the Allens refuse to use pesticide because of potential water pollution.

Note: Whether directly quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing material, ALWAYS cite your sources. The law on how much material you may directly quote legally varies both with the genre/medium involved and with the use to which it is put. When in doubt, check copyright law. Questions? A good place to start is MLA’s page on Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty.

2. Quotation within a quotation. Use single quotation marks for a quotation enclosed inside another quotation. For example:

The agricultural reporter for the newspaper explained, “When I talked to the Allens last week, they said, ‘We refuse to use that pesticide.’ “

3. Omitted words in a quotation. If you leave words out of a quotation, use an ellipsis mark to indicate the omitted words. If you need to insert something within a quotation, use a pair of brackets to enclose the addition.

Quoting Material

Full quotation

The welfare agency representative said, “We are unable to help every family that we’d like to help because we don’t have the funds to do so.”

Omitted material with ellipsis

The welfare agency representative said, “We are unable to help every family . . . because we don’t have the funds to do so.”

Added material with brackets

The welfare agency representative explained that they are “unable to help every family that [they would] like to help.”

4. Use quotation marks for the titles of minor works (short poems, short stories, etc.) and parts of wholes (chapters in books, articles in papers, etc.).Use quotation marks for:

Green check mark Titles of short or minor works, such as songs, short stories, essays, short poems, one-act plays, and other literary works that are shorter than a three-act play or a complete book.

Green check markTitles of parts of larger works, such as chapters in books; articles in newspapers, magazines, journals, or other periodical publications; and episodes of television and radio series.

But: Use italics for titles of major works or of works that contain smaller segments such as books; plays of three or more acts; newspapers, magazines, journals, or other periodical publications; films; and television and radio series. (See italics above)

Do not use quotation marks for referring to the books of the Tanakh or Holy Bible, suras of the Qur’an, or other sacred texts or to cite legal documents, but do use them when you quote a Bible or other textual passage, “In the beginning…”.

5. Use quotation marks to indicate words used ironically, with reservations, or in some unusual way.

Green check mark The great march of “progress” has left millions impoverished and hungry.

Green check mark For words used as words themselves or for technical or unfamiliar terms used for the first time (and defined), use italics. Examples:

  • The English word nuance comes from a Middle French word meaning “shades of color.”
  • The use of chiasmus, or the inversion of syntactic elements in parallel phrases, can create rhetorically powerful expressions.

6. Punctuation with Quotation Marks. Use a comma to introduce a quotation after a standard dialogue tag, a brief introductory phrase, or a dependent clause. Examples:

Green check mark “He asked,” “She stated,” “According to Bronson,” or “As Shakespeare wrote.” Use a colon to introduce a quotation after an independent clause.

Green check markAs D. H. Nachas explains, “The gestures used for greeting others differ greatly from one culture to another.”

Green check markD. H. Nachas explains cultural differences in greeting customs: “Touching is not a universal sign of greeting. While members of European cultures meet and shake hands as a gesture of greeting, members of Asian cultures bow to indicate respect.”

7. Put commas and periods within closing quotation marks, except when a parenthetical reference follows the quotation.

Green check mark He said, “I may forget your name, but I never remember a face.”

Green check mark History is stained with blood spilled in the name of “civilization.”

Green check mark Mullen, criticizing the apparent inaction, writes, “Donahue’s policy was to do nothing” (27). Note: When parenthetical information falls within the closing punctuation, the information is shown to pertain only to that sentence. When the citation falls outside the closing punctuation, it is taken to mean all material since the last citation: Mullen, criticizing the apparent inaction, suggested that Donahue’s policy was one of inaction. He also noted that such policy was foolish in the extreme. (27)

8. Put colons and semicolons outside closing quotation marks.

Green check mark Williams described the experiment as “a definitive step forward”; other scientists disagreed.

Green check markBenedetto emphasizes three elements of what she calls her “Olympic journey”: family support, personal commitment, and great coaching.

9. Put a dash, question mark, or exclamation point within closing quotation marks when the punctuation applies to the quotation itself and outside when it applies to the whole sentence.

Green check mark Philip asked, “Do you need this book?”

Green check mark Does Dr. Lim always say to her students, “You must work harder”?

Green check mark Sharon shouted enthusiastically, “We won! We won!”

Green check mark I can’t believe you actually like that song, “If You Wanna Be My Lover”!

10. Unnecessary Quotation Marks

Green check mark Do not put quotation marks around the titles of your essays.

Green check mark Do not use quotation marks for common nicknames, bits of humor, technical terms that readers are likely to know, and trite or well-known expressions.

Italics Quotation Marks Underscore Resources


Unless your professor or publisher insists, use underscoring only for creating live links. Underlining was used back in the time of typewriters because they only had one basic font face to work with. Publishers with multiple fonts at their disposal always had and employed italics and boldface where appropriate. Now that almost all of you are working digitally, you can use those multiple font faces and sizes as appropriate.

Italics Quotation Marks Underscore Resources


AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors, 10th ed., Oxford University Press, 2007. Web. 28 June 2014. [See also: AMA Manual of Style.]

American Psychological Association. Publication Manual Of The American Psychological Association, 7th ed. Washington, DC, 2013.

Associated Press. The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, Basic Books, 2013. [See also: AP Stylebook. Web. 28 June 2014.]

The Chicago Manual of Style. 16th ed. University of Chicago Press, 2010. Web. 28 June 2014. [See also: Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide.]

The Chicago Manual of Style: Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers. 15th ed. University of Chicago Press, 2003. Print.

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2009.

MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2008.

The New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Oxford University Press, 2005. Web. 29 June 2014.

The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, Times Books, 1999.

Purdue University. Journal Abbreviation Resources. 16 August 2004. Found 21 December 2005.

Purdue University. “The Owl at Purdue.” 2005. Found December 4, 2005.

“Q&A.” The Chicago Manual of Style Online. The Chicago Manual of Style. 2010. Found 30 May 2014.

Italics Quotation Marks Underscore Resources

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