, italic type
is a cursive font
based on a stylized form of calligraphic handwriting
Owing to the influence from calligraphy
, italics normally slant slightly to the right. Italics are a way to emphasise key points in a printed text, or when quoting a speaker a way to show which words they stressed. One manual of English usage described italics as "the print equivalent of Underline
The name comes from the fact that calligraphy-inspired were first designed in Italy, to replace documents traditionally written in a handwriting style called chancery hand. Aldus Manutius and Ludovico Arrighi (both between the 15th and 16th centuries) were the main type designers involved in this process at the time. Different glyph shapes from Roman type are usually usedanother influence from calligraphyand upper-case letters may have swashes, flourishes inspired by ornate calligraphy. An alternative is oblique type, in which the type is slanted but the letterforms do not change shape: this less elaborate approach is used by many sans-serif typefaces.
Italic type was first used by Aldus Manutius
and his Aldine Press
Manutius intended his italic type to be used not for emphasis but for the text of small, easily carried editions of popular books (often poetry), replicating the style of handwritten manuscripts of the period. The choice of using italic type, rather than the roman type in general use at the time, was apparently made to suggest informality in editions designed for leisure reading. Manutius' italic type was cut by his punchcutter Francesco Griffo (who later following a dispute with Manutius claimed to have conceived it). It replicated handwriting of the period following from the style of Niccolò de' Niccoli, possibly even Manutius' own.
Oxford University Press (2010
, Oxford University Press, USA.
. ISBN 9780199809455
[Berthold Ullman, The origin and development of humanistic script, Rome, 1960, p. 77]
The first use in a complete volume was a 1501 edition of Virgil dedicated to Italy, although it had been briefly used in the frontispiece of a 1500 edition of Catherine of Siena's letters.
In 1501, Aldus wrote to his friend Scipio:
Manutius' italic was different in some ways from modern italics, being conceived for the specific use of replicating the layout of contemporary calligraphers like Pomponio Leto and Bartolomeo Sanvito. The capital letters were upright capitals on the model of Roman square capitals, shorter than the ascending lower-case italic letters, and were used at the start of each line followed by a clear space before the first lower-case letter.
While modern italics are often more condensed than , historian Harry Carter describes Manutius' italic as about the same width as roman type. To replicate handwriting, Griffo cut at least sixty-five tied letters (ligatures) in the Aldine Dante and Virgil of 1501. Italic typefaces of the following century used varying but reduced numbers of ligatures.
Italic type rapidly became very popular and was widely (and inaccurately) imitated. The Venetian Senate gave Aldus exclusive right to its use, a patent confirmed by three successive , but it was widely counterfeited as early as 1502.
Griffo, who had left Venice in a business dispute, cut a version for printer Girolamo Soncino, and other copies appeared in Italy and in Lyons. The Italians called the character Aldino, while others called it Italic. Italics spread rapidly; historian Hendrik Vervliet dates the first production of italics in Paris to 1512. Some printers of Northern Europe used home-made supplements to add characters not used in Italian, or mated it to alternative capitals, including Gothic ones.
Besides imitations of Griffo's italic and its derivatives, a second wave appeared of "chancery" italics, most popular in Italy, which Vervliet describes as being based on "a more deliberate and formal handwriting with longer ascenders and descenders, sometimes with curved or bulbous terminals, and often only available in the bigger sizes."
Chancery italics were introduced around 1524 by Arrighi, a calligrapher and author of a calligraphy textbook who began a career as a printer in Rome, and also by Giovanni Antonio Tagliente of Venice, with imitations rapidly appearing in France by 1528.
Chancery italics faded as a style over the course of the sixteenth century, although revivals were made beginning in the twentieth century. Chancery italics may have backward-pointing serifs or round terminals pointing forwards on the ascenders.
Italic capitals with a slope were introduced in the sixteenth century. The first printer known to have used them was Johann or Johannes Singriener in Vienna in 1524, and the practice spread to Germany, France and Belgium.
Particularly influential in the switch to sloped capitals as a general practice was Robert Granjon, a prolific and extremely precise French punchcutter particularly renowned for his skill in cutting italics. Vervliet comments that among punchcutters in France "the main name associated with the change is Granjon's."
The evolution of use of italic to show emphasis happened in the sixteenth century and was a clear norm by the seventeenth. The trend of presenting types as matching in typefounders' specimens developed also over this period.
Italics developed stylistically over the following centuries, tracking changing tastes in calligraphy and type design. One major development that slowly became popular from the end of the seventeenth century was a switch to an open form h matching the n, a development seen in the Romain du roi type of the 1690s, replacing the folded, closed-form h of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century italics, and sometimes simplification of the entrance stroke.
An example of normal (Roman type)
and true italics
The same example, as Oblique type text:
Some examples of possible differences between roman and italic type, besides the slant, are below. The transformations from roman to italics are illustrated:
None of these differences are required in an italic; some, like the "p" variant, do not show up in the majority of italic fonts, while others, like the "a" and "f" variants, are in almost every italic. Other common differences include:
Double-loop g replaced by single-loop version.
Different closing height where the forked stroke intersects with the stem (e.g. : a, b, d, g, p, q, r, þ).
Bracketed serifs (if any) replaced by hooked serifs.
Tail of Q replaced by tilde (as in, for example, the Garamond typeface).
Less common differences include a descender on the z and a ball on the finishing stroke of an h, which curves back to resemble a b somewhat. Sometimes the w is of a form taken from old German typefaces, in which the left half is of the same form as the n and the right half is of the same form as the v in the same typeface. There also exist specialized ligatures for italics, such as a curl atop the s which reaches the ascender of the p in sp.
In addition to these differences in shape of letters, italic lowercases usually lack at the bottoms of strokes, since a pen would bounce up to continue the action of writing. Instead they usually have one-sided serifs that curve up on the outstroke (contrast the flat two-sided serifs of a roman font). One uncommon exception to this is Hermann Zapf's Melior. (Its outstroke serifs are one-sided, but they don't curve up.)
Outside the regular alphabet, there are other italic types for symbols:
Ampersand resembles ET ligature more than the Roman version (e.g.: ITC Garamond)
Asterisk is rotated instead of slanted (e.g.: Bookman Old Style, ITC Garamond).
Question mark resembles a reversed Latin S.
True italic styles are traditionally somewhat narrower than roman fonts.
Emphasis: "Smith wasn't the guilty party, it's true". This is called stress in speech.
The titles of works that stand by themselves, such as books (including those within a larger series), albums, paintings, plays, and periodicals: "He wrote his thesis on The Scarlet Letter". Works that appear within larger works, such as short stories, poems, or newspaper articles, are not italicized, but merely set off in quotation marks. When italics are unavailable, such as on a typewriter or websites that do not support formatting, an underscore or quotes are often used instead.
The names of ships: "The Queen Mary sailed last night."
Foreign words, including the Latin binomial nomenclature in the taxonomy of living organisms: "A splendid coq au vin was served"; " Homo sapiens".
Mentioning a word as an example of a word rather than for its semantic content (see use–mention distinction): "The word the is an article".
Using a letter or number mentioned as itself:
John was annoyed; they had forgotten the h in his name once again.
When she saw her name beside the 1 on the rankings, she finally had proof that she was the best.
Introducing or defining terms, especially technical terms or those used in an unusual or different way:
"Freudian psychology is based on the ego, the super-ego, and the id."; "An even number is one that is a multiple of 2."
Sometimes in novels to indicate a character's thought process: " This can't be happening, thought Mary."
Italics are used in the King James Version to de-emphasise words "that have no equivalent in the original text but that are necessary in English.
symbols (constants and variables) are conventionally typeset in italics: "The solution is x = 2."
Symbols for physical quantities and mathematical constants: "The speed of light, c, is approximately equal to 3.00×108 m/s."
[. This document was slightly revised in 2007* and full text included in the Guidelines For Drafting IUPAC Technical Reports And Recommendations and also in the 3rd edition of the IUPAC Green Book. *Refer to Chemistry International. Volume 36, Issue 5, Pages 23–24, ISSN (Online) 1365-2192, ISSN (Print) 0193-6484, DOI: 10.1515/ci-2014-0529, September 2014] [See also Typefaces for Symbols in Scientific Manuscripts, NIST, January 1998. This cites the family of ISO standards 31-0:1992 to 31-13:1992.] [" More on Printing and Using Symbols and Numbers in Scientific and Technical Documents". Chapter 10 of NIST Special Publication 811 (SP 811): Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI). 2008 Edition, by Ambler Thompson and Barry N. Taylor. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, US. March 2008. 76 pages. This cites the ISO standards 31-0:1992 and 31-11:1992, but notes "Currently ISO 31 is being revised [...]. The revised joint standards ISO/IEC 80000-1—ISO/IEC 80000-15 will supersede ISO 31-0:1992—ISO 31-13.".]
In biology, gene names (for example, lac operon) are written in italics whereas protein names are written in roman type (e.g. β-galactosidase, which the lacZ gene codes for).
Oblique type compared to italics
(or slanted roman, sloped roman) is type that is slanted, but lacking cursive letterforms, with features like a non-descending f
and double-storey a
, unlike "true italics". Many sans-serif
typefaces use oblique designs (sometimes called "sloped roman" styles) instead of italic ones; some have both italic and oblique variants. Type designers have described oblique type as less organic and calligraphic than italics, which in some situations may be preferred.
Contemporary type designer Jeremy Tankard
stated that he had avoided a true italic 'a' and 'e' in his sans-serif Bliss due to finding them "too soft", while Jonathan Hoefler
and Frere-Jones have described obliques as more "keen and insistent" than true italics.
has described obliques as more appropriate to the aesthetic of sans-serifs than italics.
In contrast, Martin Majoor
has argued that obliques do not contrast enough from the regular style.
Almost all modern serif fonts have true italic designs. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a number of type foundries such as American Type Founders and Genzsch & Heyse offered serif typefaces with oblique rather than italic designs, especially display typefaces but these designs (such as Genzsch Antiqua) have mostly disappeared.
An exception is American Type Founders' Bookman, offered in some releases with the oblique of its metal type version. An unusual example of an oblique font from the inter-war period is the display face Koch Antiqua. With a partly-oblique lower case, it also makes the italic capitals inline in the style of blackletter capitals in the larger sizes of the metal type. It was developed by Rudolph Koch, a type designer who had previously specialised in to blackletter font design (which does not use italics); Walter Tracy described his design as "uninhibited by the traditions of roman and italic".
The printing historian and artistic director Stanley Morison was for a time in the inter-war period interested in the oblique type style, which he felt stood out in text less than a true italic and should supersede it. He argued in his article Towards an Ideal Italic that serif book typefaces should have as the default sloped form an oblique and as a complement a script typeface where a more decorative form was preferred.
He made an attempt to promote the idea by commissioning the typeface Perpetua from Eric Gill with a sloped roman rather than an italic, but came to find the style unattractive; Perpetua's italic when finally issued had the conventional italic 'a', 'e' and 'f'. Morison wrote to his friend, type designer Jan van Krimpen, that in developing Perpetua's italic "we did not give enough slope to it. When we added more slope, it seemed that the font required a little more cursive to it." A few other type designers replicated his approach for a time: van Krimpen's Romulus and William Addison Dwiggins' Electra were both released with obliques. Morison's Times New Roman typeface has a very traditional true italic in the style of the late eighteenth century, which he later wryly commented owed "more to Didot than dogma".
Some serif designs primarily intended for headings rather than body text are not provided with an italic, Engravers and some releases of Cooper Black and Baskerville being common examples of this. In addition, computer programmes may generate an 'italic' style by simply slanting the regular style if they cannot find an italic or oblique style, though this may look awkward with serif fonts for which an italic is expected. Professional designers normally do not simply tilt fonts to generate obliques but make subtle corrections to correct the distorted curves this introduces. Many sans-serif families have oblique fonts labelled as italic, whether or not they include "true italic" characteristics.
More complex usage
Italics within italics
If something within a run of italics needs to be italicized itself, the type is normally switched back to non-italicized (Roman type
) type: " I think
The Scarlet Letter had a chapter about that
, thought Mary." In this example, the title (" The Scarlet Letter
") is within an italicized thought process and therefore this title is non-italicized. It is followed by the main narrative that is outside both. It is also non-italicized and therefore not obviously separated from the former. The reader must find additional criteria to distinguish between these. Here, apart from using the attribute of italic–non-italic styles, the title also employs the attribute of capitalization. Citation styles in which book titles are italicized differ on how to deal with a book title within a book title; for example, MLA style
specifies a switch back to roman type, whereas The Chicago Manual of Style
(8.184) specifies the use of quotation marks ( A Key to Whitehead's "Process and Reality"
). An alternative option is to switch to an 'upright italic' style if the typeface used has one; this is discussed below.
Left-leaning italics are very rare in Latin alphabet
use, where their use is mostly restricted to occasional use where an attention-grabbing effect is sought.
They are more common in Arabic printing.
In certain Arabic alphabet
fonts (e.g.: Adobe Arabic, Boutros Ads), the italic font has the top of the letter leaning to the left, instead of leaning to the right. Some font families, such as Venus, Roemisch, Topografische Zahlentafel, include left leaning fonts and letters designed for German cartographic map production, even though they do not support Arabic characters.
Iranic font style
In the 1950s, Gholamhossein Mosahab invented the Iranic font style
, a back-slanted italic form to go with the right-to-left direction of
Since italic styles clearly look different from regular (roman) styles, it is possible to have 'upright italic' designs that have a cursive style but remain upright. In Latin-script countries, upright italics are rare but are sometimes used in mathematics or in complex texts where a section of text already in italics needs a 'double italic' style to add emphasis to it. Donald Knuth
's Computer Modern
has an alternate upright italic as an alternative to its standard italic, since its intended use is complex mathematics typesetting.
Font families with an upright or near-upright italic only include Jan van Krimpen's Romanée, Eric Gill's Joanna, Martin Majoor's FF Seria and Frederic Goudy's Deepdene. The popular book typeface Bembo has been sold with two italics: one reasonably straightforward design that is commonly used today, and an alternative upright 'Condensed Italic' design, far more calligraphic, as a more eccentric alternative.
This italic face was designed by Alfred Fairbank and named "Bembo Condensed Italic", Monotype series 294.
Some Arts and Crafts movement-influenced printers such as Eric Gill also revived the original italic system of italic lower-case only from the nineteenth century onwards.
, Published by Eva Svensson, and printed by the Westerham Press. ISBN 9780903696043
The Chicago Manual of Style suggests that to avoid problems such as overlapping and unequally spaced characters, parentheses and surrounding text that begins and ends in italic or oblique type should also be italicized (as in this example). An exception to this rule applies when only one end of the parenthetical is italicized (in which case roman type is preferred, as on the right of this example).
In The Elements of Typographic Style, however, it is argued that since Italic are not historically correct, the upright versions should always be used, while paying close attention to kerning.
In media where italicization is not possible, alternatives are used as substitutes:
In typewritten or handwritten text, underlining is typically used.
In plain-text computer files, including e-mail communication, italicized words are often indicated by surrounding them with slashes or other matched . For example:
I was /really/ annoyed.
They >completely< forgot me!
I had _nothing_ to do with it. (Commonly interpreted as underlining, which is an alternative to italics.)
It was *absolutely* horrible. (Commonly interpreted as bold. This and the previous example signify italic in Markdown.)
Where the italics do not indicate emphasis, but are marking a title or where a word is being mentioned or defined as a direct object, quotation marks may be substituted:
The word "the" is an article.
The term "even number" refers to a number that is a multiple of 2.
The story "A Sound of Thunder" was written by Ray Bradbury.
, the i HTML element
is used to produce italic (or Oblique type
) text. When the author wants to indicate emphasized text, modern Web standards recommend using the em element, because it conveys that the content is to be emphasized, even if it cannot be displayed in italics. Conversely, if the italics are purely ornamental rather than meaningful, then Semantic HTML
would dictate that the author use the Cascading Style Sheets declaration font-style: italic; along with an appropriate, semantic class name instead of an i or em element.