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What are italics?

Italics are a sloping kind of writing. The characters slope to the right, as you see here:

Normal type and Italic type

This sentence is in normal type.
This sentence is in italic type.

The noun is "italics". The adjective is "italic". So we also call italics "italic type".

When to use italics

We use italics for several different reasons, including:

Italics are not really possible in handwriting. There are too many different styles of handwriting, and much handwriting tends to slope to the right anyway! But we can do most of the above in other ways. For example, we can show emphasis with underlining (         ). We can indicate titles of books, films and so on with quotation marks ("  ").