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More APA Style Guidelines: Italics


APA has specific guidelines for the use of italics. You can find them in APA 7, Section 6.22. As a general rule, use italics sparingly.

According to the manual, italics are appropriate for:

  1. Titles of books, journals and periodicals, webpages, reports, films, videos, and other stand-alone works.
    The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is…
    In the show Friends, Rachel and Ross…
    The American Journal of Psychology includes…
  2. Introduction of new key technical term or label
    The term zone of proximal development means....
    Adolescents labeled high risk should...
  3. Anchors of a scale
    Scores ranged from 0 (never) to 5 (continuously)
  4. General/scientific names, species, and varieties
    Equus caballus
  5. Letters in statistical symbols or algebraic variables

    n = 5
    LL, MSE (see list on p. 120 of the sixth edition APA manual)

  6. Gene symbols
  7. When a reader might not see intended emphasis or misinterpret the use of a word in a sentence.


Italics are inappropriate for:

  • Emphasis
  • Words, phrases, or letters presented as linguistic examples (this is a change from APA 6 guidelines, which recommended using italics for linguistic examples)
  • Foreign phrases common in English (et al., a posteriori, ex post facto)
  • Greek letters (a)
  • Nonstatistical subscripts to statistical symbols (Fcrit)
  • Chemical terms (OH, LSD)

Use reverse italics when a word or phrase is italicized within a title or other phrase that is already italicized. Reverse italics means that the word or phrase that would normally be italicized is not italicized (presented in plain text).

In Gone With the Wind: Is it America’s Strangest Film?, Barber (2014) expressed puzzlement at the film classic’s ongoing popularity.

In this example, the title of the film Gone With the Wind is in reverse italics as part of the webpage title in which it appears.