Latin, Italics, And Punctuation

A lot of specific legal phrases are Latin phrases or at least started out Latin. Latin, italics, and punctuation are more than a little confusing so we will take a little time today to try to make those things a little bit clearer.

  • According to the Bluebook, non-English words and phrases are typically italicized. However, non-English words that have been used so much that they have been incorporated into the English language are not italicized. Latin words that have been consistently used in legal writing are considered incorporated into the English language. This being said, very long Latin phrases and obsolete and uncommon Latin phrases are still italicized. This list comes directly from the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation:
    • These words meet the very long and obsolete and uncommon Latin phrases and should always be italicized:
      • ignorantia legis neminem excusat (ignorance of the law does not excuse)
      • sero sed serio (late but in earnest)
      • ex dolo malo non oritur actio (no right of action can have its origin in fraud)
    • However, these words are so commonly used in legal writing that they are considered incorporated into the English language and should NOT be italicized:
      • e.g. (EXCEPT when used as part of an introductory signal for a citation—See, e.g.,[Also note that these commas are not italicized but the periods in e.g. are])
      • res judicata
      • amicus curiae
      • corpus juris
      • obiter dictum
      • modus operandi
      • non obstante verdict
      • mens rea
      • i.e.
      • quid pro quo
      • certiorari (EXCEPT when used in an explanatory phrase in a citation—cert. denied)
      • ab initio
      • de jure
      • habeas corpus
      • prima facie
      • en banc
  • Other Latin phrases that continue to be italicized include:
    • Supra
    • In re
    • ex rel.

The Latin word id. is always italicized (including the period following the “d”). Note that id. is used to refer to the immediately preceding citation in a document but ONLY when the immediately preceding citation contains only one authority. Also, if you are using id. in a footnote, it must be used only when the immediately preceding citation is within the same footnote or in the immediately previous footnote and that footnote contains only one authority. If you are responsible for cite checking documents, keep this in mind. And if you are responsible for typing documents, keep this in mind as well—in addition to italicizing the period after id. These are important (and overlooked) details.

Spero autem quod expediens erat! (I hope this was helpful!)


Grammar Giggles – This Error is Imossible to Forget!

I found this one in an email I received. It was correct when I clicked on the link, but incorrect in the email. This is not a very good advertisement for a company that engraves things as their business. Just a little extra time can make all the difference in the world!

Things Remembered

Grammar Giggle – That’s Some Arts & Crafts Program!

As most of you know, I have a very low tolerance for errors by schools. I understand they are people too, but I hold them to a higher standard just because teaching proper grammar is part of their business and this kind of stuff isn’t that hard–just plain inattention. This Giggle was forwarded to me by a friend and I love receiving any Grammar Giggles you might find.


Remember–if you enjoy Proof That proofreading blog and the Grammar Giggles, you can sign up to get notifications of new postings in the upper right hand corner AND you can always share them with your friends and coworkers (we’ll call that a subtle hint!). If you have a pressing proofreading question or Grammar Giggle, forward it to me at for a possible future blog post.

Quick Confusing Words – Kitty-corner or Catty-corner? Onto or on to?

Here are just a couple of quickies that don’t really warrant an entire blog post, but where readers have requested clarification.

1. Kitty corner or catty corner? According to Merriam-Webster Online, kitty-corner is used to describe two things that are located across from each other on opposite corners. Variants of kitty-corner are both catercorner and catty-corner. Which word you use could be determined by where you live. Those in the northeast part of the country use kitty-corner most often and those in the southeast part of the country use catty-corner. This website has a map based on a dialect survey that is interesting for this issue – Basically, all three forms are correct, but catercorner and catty-corner are derivatives of the more popular katty-corner.

2. Onto or on to. Onto is a preposition describing the direction of something moving toward a surface. A trick that you can use is to check to see if on can replace onto.

She climbed onto her car.

In this sentence, onto is correct because “She climbed on her car” makes sense. On the other hand, if you left someone something in your will, you would not say “I passed my grandfather’s pocket watch on him,” so that sentence should be:

I passed my grandfather’s pocket watch on to him.

Let me know if you have something you struggle with. Chances are that it isn’t just you and others can benefit from a blog post about that very topic. Comment below or email


We Would Like Your Presence Too, But Only If You Bring Presents!

I found this one on Twitter. If you don’t think you have a good grasp of grammar and homophones, please take someone with you (or at least let them look at the language before you have invitations printed). This is just embarrassing. At least it is if it was truly an error and the bride and groom aren’t just greedy.