The Importance of Italics in Writing

Have you ever wondered…are italics really necessary? Sure, you can use italics to stress an important point, to draw attention to a detail in writing. 

But how far does this take us, really? You may have never thought of this before, but italics do more than simply stress an important point. To prove my this, I’ll write out the same sentence four times, the only difference being the word that is italicized:

  • Are these your shoes?

Meaning: Notice this incredulity as to whether these shoes are really your shoes. Simply by italicizing the ‘are.’

  • Are these your shoes?

Meaning: Whoever is speaking is definitely sure that you’re missing shoes, but now is wondering if these particular shoes happen to be the ones you’re missing.

  • Are these your shoes?

Meaning: The question is being asked to ensure authenticity of ownership.

  • Are these your shoes?

Meaning: Your shoes are so tattered and torn that someone is asking to make sure that these are shoes and not socks or strips from your leather jacket.

Just these four examples should get you to start thinking consciously about italics, since the practical uses are unconsciously understood and implemented by most – each sentence is exactly the same except for the italics. And yet this is enough to make each sentence semantically unique.

So in conclusion, italics do something very important in the logical meaning of different strings of language. Italics changes the connotation, the way we understand a sentence, either spoken or written. 

Be careful of the words you stress; the wording of a certain remark may be perfectly harmless – but if you stress (or italicize) the wrong word, someone could get offended.

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