The italicizing of titles of books is standard in text. However, when the name of a ship or sea vessel is referred to, it is also italicized.

When something is italicized inside of italics, it is un-italicized. Does that mean that the proper formatting of "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" by C. S. Lewis is "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader"?

  • And are you asking how this books title is written on the cover page of this book or how it is or should be written when citing this book in another work.
    – James K
    Nov 14 '21 at 22:21
  • 6
    This is not specific to Science Fiction, so would probably be better off on English Language & Usage or Literature. Nov 14 '21 at 22:24
  • 5
    I’m voting to close this question because this is an English writing style question that doesn't have anything to do with Science Fiction or Fantasy.
    – Spencer
    Nov 14 '21 at 23:23
  • 1
    @Spencer - Agreed. This question could just as easily be about a non-SF title such as 'The Caine Mutiny' or 'Mutiny on the Bounty'
    – Valorum
    Nov 15 '21 at 0:44
  • Should this be moved to the meta, or to English Language and Usage SE? Idk how to vote to move Nov 15 '21 at 1:05

The correct solution is to use whatever the contextually correct form of emphasis is for the ship name. This depends on the format and the default styling. As the question points out, when the running body text is in Roman type, emphasis typically means using italic type. When the emphasized text is embedded inside something that is already italicized, the emphasis is indicated by reverting to Roman type. So, in most printed contexts, the correct notation for the title would be:

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

with the ship name in Roman type.

For most situations, this should provide a satisfactory answer. However, there are cases where the correct indication of emphasis is something different. In handwritten or typewriter-produced texts, the standard for emphasis is to underline something. Multiple iterations of emphasis can be handled by multiple underlines. (Historically, this was something of a workaround, since it was difficult—when writing by hand—or impossible—using a typewriter—to produce reliably recognizable italic type, so a different procedure was needed. However, it developed into its own scheme with well-defined rules.) This is why HTML has separate tags for <i> (for italic) and <em> (for emphasis). The first denotes a typographical property, while the second denotes a semantic one. If the style sheet for a Web page called for the main body text to be italicized (as sometimes happens), then the <em> should be defined to switch to Roman type for emphasis.

  • 1
    Notably, this isn't how the title of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is written in almost every context.
    – Valorum
    Nov 15 '21 at 0:23

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