italicize this!

istitch's picture

good morning/day/night,

is the term italicize acceptable? to me, it has more to do with the way that most people use the italic button in programs like Word (and even Quark!)

we all know that we're supposed to use the actual italic face, so when we do that, should we avoid use of the term italicize? is it better to simply say “…use an italic face” or something like that?

has this term been used in the past or is it a reflection of more common type usage?

i guess it just bugs me when the term appears on client revisions…

Miss Tiffany's picture

IMHO Use the italic vresion _or_ italicize it.

istitch's picture

sorry Miss Tiffany, but what's IMHO? i did a search and found it a bunch but i couldn't figure it out.

: )

matthewbuchanan's picture

Usually, "In my humble/honest opinion".

Miss Tiffany's picture

Yep, that. But I didn't spell version correctly. :^] Oops.

istitch's picture

got it. so your saying it doesn't matter.

what about the term itself? in the days of metal type, did people use the term? or is this something that started as a desktop publishing term?

claes's picture

i prefer cursivating and obliquating.

istitch's picture


but when you use the forbidden italic button, your not making it cursive. is cursivating more of a type design thing?

claes's picture

cursivating and obliquating aren't even real words. sorry. (o:

but to be more serious about it, why would the word "italicize" mean using the fake in-program skew? i'm pretty sure it means to print with italic letters, so maybe it's just your own perception that italicize means something bad..?

Miss Tiffany's picture

Italicize is an action. So yes, you are choosing to hit a button. I suppose. Or you could be italicizing it by selecting the italic version of the typeface.

hankzane's picture

You should ask an Italian.

claes's picture


istitch's picture

>so maybe it’s just your own perception that italicize means something bad..?

you could be on to something : ) but the answer to that question lies in whether or not the term has been used in the passed, before the days of the desktop publisher.

…because when you use the italic button, you are essentially turning the roman into an italic. hence, italicize.
(^ i wrote this before i read Miss Tiff's comment)

it's not that it's bad to use a term like this. i'm just wanting to investigate the origin of the term a little further because i feel that it might be (just a tad) insightful… IMHO : )

dberlow's picture

First off, we don't say Italicize. If we are making a mechanically derived sloped style is oblique or obliqued.

Second, when you use the italic button, you are either obliqueing the roman or, calling the real italic, depending on the typeface, OS and application.

Thank you, for your visit.

Si_Daniels's picture

>but when you use the forbidden italic button

That's surely an olden days mac-centric rule? It's probably best to say "be sure to use a 'true italic' font" or "avoid fake italics and synthesized bolds."

I read recently here that the bold button is the 5th most used feature in Word 2003 - but you rarely see fake bold used these days.

claes's picture

First off, we don’t say Italicize. If we are making a mechanically derived sloped style is oblique or obliqued.

we agree with this statement.


Miss Tiffany's picture

That's what I was just saying. :'^(

fontplayer's picture


"So-and-so started cursivating when they read so-and-so's reply."


Compulsory form for fervent quaters.

istitch's picture

are you saying that the (newer) bold button replaces the font with the true bold weight?

pattyfab's picture

Who's the decider here?

istitch's picture

that's what i'm trying to figure out.

cerulean's picture

The word "italicize" certainly predates computer type, and simply means "to print in italics." Its usage is similar to "capitalize." It would be impractical for a grammar and style handbook to avoid straightforward verbs like "capitalize," "italicize" and "underline" when telling you what to do with your words.

Nobody refers to an italicized word as "an italic word," because an Italic word would be one with roots in the Italic family of languages. It's like the difference between an emphatic word (one might say that "preposterous" is an inherently emphatic word) and an emphasized word (you can emphasize any word; it's a thing you do to it when you represent it in sounds or type).

In typophile terms, you can only oblique a glyph, but you can italicize a letter. You italicize a letter by using an italic glyph for that letter.

timd's picture

When proofreaders, editors (and, alas, some typographers) can't remember the mark above* they use italicise.
*okay that's an approximation

Si_Daniels's picture

>are you saying that the (newer) bold button replaces the font with the true bold weight?

No I'm saying that due to the 4 weight family style-linking 'limitation' in Windows GDI, if a true italic or bold exists you're going to get it. You rarely see fake italics in Windows generated content that uses bundled fonts. Exceptions being those families that have no true italic - Comic Sans and Tahoma for example.

Eric_West's picture

Saying italicise comes quite naturally to me...

istitch's picture

> It would be impractical for a grammar and style handbook to avoid straightforward verbs like “capitalize,” “italicize”…

good point.

dezcom's picture

Well said Cerulean .


Alexandre Richer's picture

From the OED (the M-W agrees):

trans. To print in italics, or (in writing) underscore with a single line as a sign that the word or words thus marked are to be so printed, or in order to emphasize or otherwise distinguish them.
1795 PARR Rem. Statem. Combe 78 In p. 17 of his pamphlet the Dr. has printed, but not italicised another inaccuracy. 1858 RUSKIN Arrows of Chace (1880) I. 139 The words which I have italicized in the above extract are those which were surprising to me. 1865 Spectator 28 Jan. 100 The lines we have italicized are lines of very great beauty. 1871-3 EARLE Philol. Eng. Tongue (ed. 2) §30 There are no words in the Latin answering to the words which are italicised in the English version.

paul d hunt's picture

are you saying that the (newer) bold button replaces the font with the true bold weight?

the purpose of these buttons in most applications it to call the style-linked bold, italic and bold italic fonts. However, some applications (like MS office apps) may apply faux formatting if there is no bold or italic style linked to the font.

Nick Shinn's picture

Well put Kevin.

It's also true that in the derivation of a verb from a noun or adjective, the first option to consider is using the word as is, unchanged. So, the word italic could theoretically be used as a verb, which is what happens with underline. So, "Did you underline/italic that phrase?"

But given the choice, people tend to prefer a word which contributes to a pleasant rhythm in sentences (and also perhaps looks good and reads well), even if, considered in isolation on purely grammatical grounds, it contains redundancy.

Underline sounds nice, no need for underlinify or underlinize.

cerulean's picture

Nick, the past participle of "to italic" would be "italicked." I think that would have unleashed upon the world more horrors from the sort of people who can't pronounce "asterisk" or spell "etc."

Nick Shinn's picture

That's my point, Kevin.
And the plural, asterices :-)

rob keller's picture

In Oklahoma we like to say Angleize or Angler i.e.
Use them angleised letters
you should angler that there sentance

istitch's picture

: D

Si_Daniels's picture

Interesting timing there's this AP story doing the rounds that's full of italics...

US – “italicize”

Australia – “italicize” -,10117,18951600-13762,00.html

Nick Shinn's picture

them angleised letters

But the French, not too fond of them anglicized letters, ennit?

dberlow's picture

There's also an article in yesterday's N.Y. Times about the Holy Blood, Holy Cow trial in Germany. The judge put a coded mesage in "italicized" letters spread throughout his judgement, (a real pro!). My guess it was a true italic though, being an English court...

dberlow's picture

Sorry, it's in England, Germans don't have stupid trials...

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