Sometimes underlining/underscoring is used in place of italics. The uses and guidelines for italics apply to underlining/underscoring.

  • In general, punctuation marks are set in the same typeface, as italic, as the word that precedes them.
  • In quotations, words that were not italicized in the original version of a text may be italicized in the quoted passage to give emphasis to a particular word or phrase, but this change must be indicated. The notation can be “emphasis added,” “italics added,” or “italics mine.”
  • For plural forms of italicized words, phrases, abbreviations, and letters, the -s or ‘s is almost always roman, e.g. a row of x’s.
  • For possessive endings, the -s or ‘s can be either roman or italic. Roman is preferred.

Italicization or underlining is used for:

  • for emphasis, e.g. Please bring the filled-out forms on the first day of camp.

Arts and Entertainment

  • motion pictures, e.g. The Gangs of New York
  • musical compositions, e.g. Verdi’s Don Carlos
  • play titles, e.g. The Producers
  • television and radio series, e.g. Sesame Street, All Things Considered


  • binomial nomenclature, e.g. Hippodamia convergens
  • foreign words and phrases that have not been fully adopted into English, e.g. chickencordon bleu
  • in a formal definition, the word to be defined is often italicized or underlined and the definition quoted, e.g. collude means “to connive with another”
  • Latin abbreviations, e.g. ibid., op. cit.
  • ordinal numbers, e.g. 2d, 3d, 22d, 22nd
  • sounds, e.g. The mixer made a low whirr.
  • subscripts and superscripts of single-letter abbreviations
  • typographical contrast, esp. for individual letters or key symbols, e.g. point A on the bar graph
  • unfamiliar words or words with a specialized meaning, esp. when given with a short definition, e.g. adzuki is a small round dark-red edible bean, bad break is an instance of bad luck.
  • words referred to as words, letters referred to as letters, numerals referred to as numerals, e.g. He cannot pronounce his th‘s, Are you using data as a singular or plural noun?


  • book titles, e.g. A Thesaurus of British Archaeology
  • court case titles, e.g. Jones v. Massachusetts
  • electronic books, newspapers, and magazines’ titles, e.g. the Electronic Times Internet
  • identifying terms in indexes, e.g. illus., map, table
  • mottos, e.g. E Pluribus Unum
  • numerals, to show that they represent a title or volume in a bibliography or reference, e.g. (3, 140)
  • periodical titles, e.g. The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, National Geographic. Do not italicize, underline, or capitalize the words magazine, newspaper, etc. unless it is part of the actual title.
  • subtitle that accompanies the main title of a book, The Order of Things: How Everything in the World is Organized into Hierarchies, Structures & Pecking Orders
  • titles of complete books, long poems, magazines, newspapers, plays, movies, long musical compositions such as operas, novellas, works of art, etc. A variation is to type the title of a complete work in full capitals.
  • titles of complete works being prepared for publication

Special Subjects

  • mathematics, for single English letters that represent unknowns and variables, even when they are used in subscripts and superscripts; for letters used to describe geometric figures; and for d derivative, e exponent, f function.
  • medical terms given in binomial nomenclature, e.g. Clostridium botulinum
  • individual vehicle and vessel names and their suffixes, e.g. Apollo 13

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