FAQ: When to use italics?

~ 17 June 2008 ~

Some time ago, probably two years now, I began archiving certain replies to emails with the label “FAQs.” These were answers to common (or uncommon) questions, such as the “frilly bits” inquiry, that I received from readers. I figured these would come in handy some day if, and I stress if, I ever get around to a long-overdue makeover of this site.

In the meantime, why not post the questions and answers here? I figure I’ll give it a go and see if I can’t do it with some sort of semi-regular cadence in the coming months.

Q: I’m very discretionary when I use italics and rarely use it. However, I saw that you pull Warnock Pro off wonderfully in your An Event Apart slides. How do you determine the appropriate use of italics in headlines or copy other than grammatical purposes?

A: Boy, that’s a tough question to answer. Part of it is merely personal preference, admittedly. However, when it comes to presentation material, I typically base the decision on the content. If it’s a quote, I don’t hesitate to use italics. To me, italics say “quote” much better than non-italics. And if you notice in my slides, most of the text in italics are quotes (in addition to a few definitions).

'I do not paint things, I paint only the differences between things.' -Henri Matisse

But at the end of the day, I have a fascination with italics and use them whenever I feel they’re appropriate. Of all the ones I’ve used, Warnock Pro’s are probably the most elegant. I really enjoy Epic’s italics, as well, especially the ligatures (though the punctuation is a bit heavy). Of course, there are many others — Mrs. Eaves, Garamond Pro, and the list goes on.

 

10  Comments

Veer Veer: Visual Elements for Creatives.
Stock photography, type, and killer tees. Genuinely recommended by Authentic Boredom.

1   Christopher Phin ~ 17 June 2008

I have a real affection for the italic weights of Cooper Black, and for web stuff I’m always surprised by the versatility and apparent elegance of italic Georgia. I always think of web typography as inferior to print, but Georgia is an astonishingly good compromise.

As *cough* you can see from, um, this site.


2   Ron Domingue ~ 17 June 2008

Thanks Cameron for your insightfulness. I was quite surprised to see such a thorough response to my email no less a blog post.

Being that its a frequently asked question; I guess I’m part of the collective unconscious that wants to know when to use italics.


3   Rick Curran ~ 17 June 2008

In your slide image you only have one opening quotation mark for the Matisse quote, is this a commonly accepted typographic convention?

Maybe it’s just the XHTML coder in me that wants to see the closing quotation mark!


4   Matt Parcher ~ 17 June 2008

Not that it matters, but I believe the object you are referring to is a “quotation”, rather than a “quote” (quotation being the noun, quote being the verb).

That’s the one thing I learned from my high school english teacher :)


5   Cameron Moll ~ 17 June 2008

In your slide image you only have one opening quotation mark for the Matisse quote, is this a commonly accepted typographic convention?

lol, how embarassing. That wasn’t intentional, and the other quotes in this deck all have closing quotation marks.

Not that it matters, but I believe the object you are referring to is a “quotation”, rather than a “quote” (quotation being the noun, quote being the verb).

Ha, thanks for the heads up. A quick search in the dictionary tells me it’s okay to use it as I have in this context, but you’re probably right that “quotation” may be the better choice in this case.


6   Doug C. ~ 18 June 2008

Oh man, not another font, lol. Now I have to go buy Warnock Pro. I’m a sucker for typefaces that dress well in italics.


7   Bone ~ 18 June 2008

It is more proper to use quotation marks around a quotation without use of italics unless there is use of italics in the source material.

That being said, as a designer I do not always use quotation marks and opt for italics because I may think it looks better. Of course unless there are italics used on words in the source material.

Further, a rule of thumb I have is that if I am using Italics for the complete quotation, I do not use quotation marks. This is similar to using italics for the title of a book and also using quotation marks. (Correct form is to underline, italicize or quotations - depending on type work - but never in combination.

One other rule I have is that the author or citation is always in roman form unless the source is a literary work and the title must be italicized.

- Bone


8   JanB ~ 28 June 2008

Italic Type #Usage
Basically, italic type emphasizes text without making it jumping out of the readers flow too much. For example if you read a books page and there’s a bolded word, you’ll probably see it even without reading every single line of the page. An italic word is “invisble” until you reach that line in which the word appears.

Anyways I agree with your opinion since we are no book printers but web and graphic designers. There’s a much more creative way to use italics. But still it’s important to know these typographic bacis rules. Many of them are hundreds of years old and accepted as a universally valid code that everyone understands (like cross-fade in movies stands for a time jump)


9   Fred K ~ 09 July 2008

"Basically, italic type emphasizes text without making it jumping out of the readers flow too much." (JanB)

This is the best definition of whento italicize imho. Whether it’s applied to a quotation, an expression in another language than the rest of the text is in, or just to stress a point, the intention is to make the word(s) more visible but not too much.

Another typeface with good italics is Stone Print Roman. Be-you-tah-ful. (Emphasized.)


10   proodiaBamdox ~ 06 March 2009

Last blog news about health and diet. http://teplovozik.biz




About

Authentic Boredom is the platitudinous web home of Cameron Moll, designer, author, and speaker. More…


Jobs
Come in, we're hiring

Full-time and freelance job opportunities. Post a job...

...view all jobs »


Recently

A selection of fine reading, available for a limited time only: