Italics, bold, quotation marks, underlining… When we write a text we often need to highlight a word or a phrase. But then we aren’t quite sure of how to do it. At Ontranslation we are aware of how useful typographical conventions are, but also of how difficult it is to remember their correct application. That is why we are going to explain when to use italics. Save this post as a favourite!
Las convenciones tipográficas son necesarias para organizar los textos, evitar ambigüedades e identificar elementos como préstamos, títulos de películas, etc. OTypographic conventions are necessary to organise texts, avoid ambiguities and identify elements such as loanwords, film titles, etc. You are obviously not going to be thinking about italics, quotation marks or indentations when you’re writing to your contacts on a WhatsApp group called “Beach Weekend” (although we all know writing in bold is becoming quite popular on WhatsApp), but if you write for others in a public space, like this blog or any other, you must follow typographical conventions to convey the message appropriately to your readers.
One of the most common uses of italics is to highlight the use of loanwords, in this way, readers are able to identify that word as belonging to a different language to the one used in the text. Although loanwords from other languages can be very obvious (and are very common), getting into the habit of using italics is essential to ensure that, in ambiguous cases such as those of similar languages, we’re not taken for illiterates (like if we used the German word dumm and didn’t highlight it). Italics are also usually used with scientific terms because they are mostly in Latin.
Another important use of italics is for emphasis in written speech. For oral language, we can use intonation, but if when writing a text we want to be a bit poetic and say we have a million friends (you might do, but you’d need a second job to be able to afford Christmas cards for all of them) we have to use italics. The metalinguistic use of italics is also important, that is, its application to mark the words or letters which we are referring to in a written text. As an example, the difference between telling your web designer in an email that “that call us on the upper right corner isn’t right” and “that call us on the upper right corner isn’t right.”
The last use of italics we’ll mention in this article applies to titles. If we want to mention a book, a film, a painting or a music album we have to use italics for the title of a full piece. So we’ll write Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in italics, but if we refer to a specific chapter we’ll write it in quotation marks. Italics are also used for shorter versions of titles, for example: Harry Potter.
As you can see, italics are very useful, cherish them. And remember: loanwords, scientific names, figurative language, metalinguistic uses and titles always in cursive (that’s another name for it). But if you are in doubt, you can always trust the services of Ontranslation!