I am currently working on finishing up a thesis about my research in the field of biochemistry. The text that I am using to describe the figures is italicized. My question is: when I am trying to mention the name of an animal species within the figure description that is already italicized, is it okay to keep the italic format for the species name, or change it to non-italic normal format? The species name is italicized all across the paper normally. For instance, you would see something like this in the paper (not in a figure description): "S. aeureus is a Gram-positive spherically shaped bacterium".

The two options for the figure description (that is in italic form) are:

  1. "Figure 1. S. aeureus is a Gram-positive spherically shaped bacterium" (keeping the italic form of the name, but this no longer emphasizes the name of the species)

  2. "Figure 1. S. aeureus is a Gram-positive spherically shaped bacterium" (the species name is no longer in italic form, making it different from the rest of the italicized sentence)

This is just an example. I couldn't find anything with regard to the rules in this kind of situation for scientific writing.

1 Answer 1


I've always seen this handled with option #2, which uses reverse italics.

For example, in APA:

When words that would normally be italicized appear within text that is already italicized, those words should be set in standard (nonitalic) type, referred to as reverse italicization. For example, if an italic symbol appears in a table title (which is also italicized), use standard type for the symbol.

Demographic Characteristics of Study Participants (N = 250)

This technique is so widespread that I also saw it in 100-year-old French.

  • 1
    +1 I've also seen this recommended in a number of other style guides of a variety of types from physics, engineering, medical, even an academic history journal.
    – Boba Fit
    Commented Apr 29, 2023 at 22:01
  • Yes, reverse italics is what is done in scientific papers as well.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Apr 30, 2023 at 11:39

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