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!)


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