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APA has specific guidelines for the use of italics. You can find them in section 4.21 of the sixth edition of the APA Manual. As a general rule, use italics sparingly.
According to the manual, italics are appropriate for:
1. Titles of books, journals and periodicals, films, and videos.
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 scale
Scores ranged from 0 (never) to 5 (continuously)
4. Words, phrases, or letters presented as linguistic examples
Kids learn words such as play and game when...
Many exotic words begin with the letter x, such
5. General/scientific names, species, and varieties
6. Letters in statistical symbols or algebraic variables
LL, MSE (see list on p. 120 of the sixth edition APA manual)
7. When a reader might not see intended emphasis or misinterpret the use of a word in a sentence.
Italics are inappropriate for:
· Emphasis (This conclusion is not supported by evidence)
· 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)