I'm working on a book using the book document class.

I have several portions of text that I want to be italicized, each of which are several paragraphs long.

I was only able to replicate the issue by using line breaks.

Here's my header




This one inconsistently italicizes and reports an error.

% Doesn't work right


textit command

This one works

% Works


em block

This one usually only italicizes the first paragraph, and is generally inconsistent.

% First pargraph


textit block

This one also only italicizes the first paragraph, and is generally inconsistent.



emph block

Yet, several answers on this site and others places (here and here) have said to use \textit and not \em. So, two questions:

  1. What is the best way to make several paragraphs italicized at once?
  2. Is using \begin{em} an okay solution?
  • 4
    Instead of \textit{...}, try {\itshape ...}. The former method cannot handle paragraph breaks, whereas the latter does.
    – Mico
    Aug 3, 2015 at 0:13
  • 1
  • In general, if you are including several paragraphs of italicised text, you should probably rethink your design. There are no doubt exceptions but, generally, there is not much point in using italics in this way. (For some reason, my school always prints the Welsh in italics but I can't think this is such a great idea even though I follow it for consistency.) Italics tend to be more difficult to read so the benefit of getting your reader's attention is undermined by the additional work they have to do to read a large amount of text typeset in this way. A few words, a sentence, a heading....
    – cfr
    Aug 3, 2015 at 0:37
  • @cfr I'm following a common practice of my genre (fantasy) in block italics. But don't fret: I'm not writing a journal article and these paragraphs are mostly dialogue, i.e. two to three sentence paragraphs, not pages and pages.
    – dantiston
    Aug 3, 2015 at 5:11
  • 1
    @dantiston Ah. OK. That makes more sense. I guess I'm too used to paragraphs in academia. Now I think about it, scripts for plays etc. might use this too - more than one short paragraph for scene setting, for example.
    – cfr
    Aug 3, 2015 at 11:00

2 Answers 2


Here are some options, depending on whether you want the text to stand out or not:

enter image description here






The main principle is to use the declaration \itshape rather than a macro (like \textit).

  • Thanks much! \itshape works perfectly. I suppose my TeX googling skills are still under developed...
    – dantiston
    Aug 3, 2015 at 5:07

You wrote:

I have several portions of text that I want to be italicized, each of which are several paragraphs long.

The macro \textit is not designed to work across paragraph breaks. Hence, don't use \textit{...} for the portions of text in question. Instead, use {\itshape ...}.

Assuming the macro \em hasn't been redefined somehow, {\em ...} will also render several paragraphs in italics.

  • 1
    It is bit funny that \textit , in itself, is defined as a \long macro—while \text@command is not \long—isn’t it?
    – GuM
    Aug 3, 2015 at 0:23
  • @GustavoMezzetti - I'll let the designers of the LaTeX kernel address your question. :-)
    – Mico
    Aug 3, 2015 at 0:26
  • 1
    It might just be an oversight: \DeclareRobustCommand without asterisk in the definition of \DeclareTextFontCommand. Perhaps inherited from the first releases of LaTeX2e, when the *-variant (non-\long) of \newcommand and siblings was not available.
    – GuM
    Aug 3, 2015 at 0:41
  • @GustavoMezzetti - I have a feeling that your hunch is spot-on.
    – Mico
    Aug 3, 2015 at 1:48

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