Sunday 3 April 2016

Italics, Hamlet, and Buffy

To italicize or not to italicize? You may spot the word Hamlet in italics, only to find it in regular type later in the same paragraph. Sometimes Buffy is italicized and other times she’s just Buffy. What’s up with that?

I'm italicized. Ask me how!

In both cases, the choice of italic or roman (i.e., regular) font depends on whether you’re talking about Hamlet the prince or Hamlet the play, Buffy the slayer or Buffy the show. Titles of both plays and TV shows should be written in italics, characters, not. So you could correctly write that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the hero of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

  • Her thesis was titled “Correlations Between the Colour of Buffy’s Lip Gloss and Methods of Subverting the Patriarchy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Students researching Hamlet’s motivation may find themselves asking with Oscar Wilde, “Are the commentators on Hamlet mad, or only pretending to be?”

Other titles that should be italicized are those of books, movies, magazines and newspapers, music albums, epic poems (epic only—think Dante’s Inferno, not “The Lady of Shalott”), works of art, and websites. Use quotation marks for titles of articles, songs, poems, TV episodes, and web posts.

So if for some reason you feel moved to cite this post, call it “Italics, Hamlet, and Buffy,” Grammarlandia. You’re welcome.

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