Web Writing for Kids: How to Use Italics

How to Use Italics Right on the Web

A young boy writes in a notebook.
A young boy writes in a notebook. GI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

If you and your child have read the introductory article in this series, Web Writing for Kids: Style and Grammar, then you know that creating simple web pages with HTML provides kids with many different style elements to use to enhance their writing. You also know that there are correct and incorrect ways to use them. This article focuses on when and when not to use italics in writing.

What Are Italics?

Italics, or italicization, is a font style characterized by letters that slant to the right.

Italics are used in a number of ways in writing, most notably for emphasis. Of course, italics don't exist in handwritten work, so the emphasis on those kinds of assignments is conveyed by underlining. In writing for the web, that can confuse a reader, since hyperlinks are noted by underlining.

Learn more: What is a hyperlink?

What Are Italics For?

Italics may be used to denote foreign words in English language text. They may also be used for Latin names and phrases in science, and to cite various sources in bibliographies. But the most common use of italics in writing is to emphasize a word or idea that needs more attention or has significance in its context. That doesn't mean if your child would say a word with more emphasis when he’s speaking it should automatically be in italics, though. If he overuses italics, then it tends to have less of an effect. (See how that works?)

When to Use Italics

There certain times in web writing when italics are not only warranted but also necessary.

For the most part, the various style guides are in agreement about when to use italics, but if your child’s writing is an assigned project, it’s a good idea to check with the teacher to see which style guide he should use.

Titles

Italics should be used for the titles of independent works, like pieces of art and long music compositions.

Newspaper names should also be in italics, but the word "the" in front of the name (the New York Times) should not be.

Additionally, the place in which the newspaper is published should only be in italics if it is part of the name (the New York Post and the London Times). Other types of titles to italicize include:

  • Books, journals, magazines and plays (The Cat in the Hat. Journal of Learning Disabilities, Rent)
  • Movies, television shows and radio shows (Aladdin, How I Met Your Mother, NPR’s Talk of the Nation)
  • CD/album names, video games and DVDs
  • Famous speeches and long poems (the Gettysburg Address, Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself)
  • Web page or online database names (Kids’ Learning Activities site, The Spruce)

Other Uses of Italics

Other than titles and emphasis, there are some less-common known instances when italics should be used in web writing. Included are:

  • Scientific names/terms (The scientific term for a house cat is Felis catus.)
  • Foreign words, phrases or terms if unfamiliar to the reader (The chorus performed the song a capella, or without musical accompaniment.)
  • Specific names of vehicles ( I remember where I was when the Challenger exploded.)
  • Words referring to themselves (The word irregardless is often misused.)

    When Not to Use Italics

    If your child overuses italics in emphasis, it may be annoying, but not technically incorrect. It would be incorrect to use italics for:

    • Titles of short stories, articles or chapters
    • Names of songs or poems
    • Foreign words that have been assimilated into the language (such as "et cetera" or "gesundheit.")
    • Names of sacred or religious books like the Bible, the Torah or the Koran

    Web Content Writing Article for Kids: Style and Grammar

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    HTML Articles for Kids: Building Web Pages

    HTML for Kids: The Basics| HTML for Kids: Tools and Rules | HTML for Kids: All About Tags| HTML for Kids: Adding Lists | HTML for Kids: Adding Tables

    Note: This article is part of series to help teach kids how to build web pages from two perspectives--the correct use of style and grammar in the written content and how to format that content in HTML to create a web page.