Italic type

Italic type

In typography, italic type /Unicode|ɪˈtælUnicode|ɪk/ or /aUnicode|ɪˈtælUnicode|ɪk/ refers to cursive typefaces based on a stylized form of calligraphic handwriting. The influence from calligraphy can be seen in their usual slight slanting to the right. Different glyph shapes from roman type are also usually used—another influence from calligraphy.

It is distinct therefore from oblique type, in which the font is merely distorted into a slanted orientation. However uppercase letters are often oblique type or swash capitals rather than true italics.


An example of "normal (roman)" and "true italics" text:

The same example, as "oblique" text:

Some examples of possible differences between roman and italic type, besides the slant, are below. The transformations from roman to italics are illustrated.

* an "e" whose bowl is curved rather than pointed,
* an "f" with a tail (known as a descender),
* a "p" with an intersection at the stem (ascender),
* a "v" and "w" with swashes and curved bottoms,
* and a "z" with the stress on the horizontal strokes as opposed to the diagonal vertical one.

None of these differences are required in an italic; some, like the "p" variant, don't 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 (eg: 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 serifs 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 (eg: ITC Garamond)
*Question mark resembles a reversed Latin S.
*Asterisk is rotated instead of slanted (eg: Bookman Old Style, ITC Garamond).


When to use

*Emphasis: "Smith wasn't the "only" guilty party, it's true."
*The titles of works that stand by themselves, such as books or newspapers: "He wrote his thesis on "The Scarlet Letter"."
*An example of a book would be You Are SpecialWorks that appear within larger works, such as short stories, poems, or newspaper articles, are not italicized, but merely set off in quotation marks.
*The names of ships: "The "Queen Mary" sailed last night."
*The title of an epic poem: "The "Iliad" is thought to be the first Greek writing."
*Foreign words, including the Latin binary nomenclature in the taxonomy of living organisms: "A splendid "coq au vin" was served"; "Homo sapiens".
*Using 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: [ [ "University of Minnesota Style Manual"] ] "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."
*Symbols for physical quantities and other mathematical variables: "The speed of light, "c", is approximately equal to 3.00×108 m s-1."

Alternative representations

Oblique type

Oblique type (or slanted, sloped) is roman type which is optically skewed, but lacking the individual letter forms and cursive accoutrements of true italics.

In many computing interfaces, the text leaning effect is called Italic, whether or not an italic font is used to render the text. The start of this confusion possibly appeared when Adrian Frutiger named the slanted versions of his typefaces Univers and Frutiger as italic. In the case of Univers, only Univers 65 Bold has a italic-named counterpart. Since then, many font families, primarily sans-serif fonts, have called the oblique fonts italic. Although updated version of those font families begin to incorporate italic features, some font families, such as Avenir Next, Linotype Univers, Neue Helvetica, do not.

Although oblique font can be generated by simply tilting base font, some designers use optical correction to correct the distorted curves introduced by the tilting alone. In addition, the tilting angle used by GUI may be different than the oblique or italic font. Some font families even have fonts in both italic and oblique variants, regardless of the presence of italic type. In addition, the oblique font can have different tilting angle from the italic font. For example, Univers 65 Bold Oblique has a smaller leaning angle than the Univers 66 Bold Italic.

Italics within italics

If something within a run of italics needs to be italicized itself, the type is switched back to non-italicized (roman) type: "That sounds like something from "The Scarlet Letter", thought Mary." In this example, we have a title ("The Scarlet Letter") 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.

Left-leaning italics

In certain Arabic fonts (eg: 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.

Upright italics

Fonts such as FF Seria have italic fonts that only have cursive designs, but not the leans typically associated with italic types.


The "Chicago Manual of Style" suggests that to avoid problems such as overlapping and unequally spaced characters, parentheses and brackets 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 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 delimiters. For example:
**I was /really/ annoyed.
**They >completely< forgot me!
**I had _nothing_ to do with it. (Commonly indicates underline.)
**It was *absolutely* horrible. (Commonly indicates bold.)
*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.

Web pages

In HTML, the i element is used to produce italic (or oblique) 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 can't be displayed in italics. Conversely, if the italics are purely ornamental rather than meaningful, then semantic markup practices 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.


Italic type was first produced by Aldus Manutius and the Aldine Press in 1501 as a condensed type for simple, compact volumes.D.B. Updike, Printing Types: their history, form and use, Harvard University Press, 1927] The punches for these types were cut by Francesco da Bologna (whose name was Griffi). In 1501 Aldus wrote to his friend Scipio:

The Aldine italic was modeled on the handwriting of Italian humanist Poggio Bracciolini who wrote in a beautiful and legible style, who was himself emulating the cursive handwriting of blackletter, which Poggio Bracciolini (mistakenly) believed to be the style of Ancient Rome. When we read italic type to this day we are basically reading the handwriting of Poggio Bracciolini.citation
last1 = Bartlett
first1 = Kenneth R.
author1-link =
year = 2005
title = The Italian Renaissance. Part 1. Lecture 6 [sound recording]
isbn = 1598030590
series = Great courses
edition = Library
place = Chantilly, VA
publisher = Teaching Company

Unlike the italic type of today, the capital letters were upright roman capitals which were shorter than the ascending lower-case italic letters and used about 65 tied letters (ligatures) in the Aldine Dante and Virgil of 1501.

This Aldine italic became the model for most italic types. It was very popular in its own day and was widely (and inaccurately) imitated. The Venetian Senate gave Aldus exclusive right to its use, a patent confirmed by three successive Popes, but it was widely counterfeited. The Italians called the character Aldino, while others called it Italic.

The slanting italic capital was first introduced by printers in Lyons, and is now used in nearly all italic fonts.


External links

* [ "The Uses of Italic A Primer of Information Regarding the Origin and Uses of Italic Letters"] by Frederick W. Hamilton
* [ Capital Community College Foundation]
* I. M. MILLS and W. V. METANOMSKI; [ On the use of italic and roman fonts for symbols in scientific text] ; IUPAC Interdivisional Committee on Nomenclature and Symbols; December 1999.

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