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I wonder which form(s) are correct amongst the following:

  • We denote scalars with italicized letters.
  • We denote scalars with italic letters.

Google n-gram seems to show that both forms are correct:

Ngram italic v italicized

but is there a most preferable choice, and/or any difference of meaning?

  • 2
    I think you can just say "italics". Otherwise "italic letters/characters". Considering a better usage for italicized might be "after the text is reviewed", some letters will be italicized. More of an action rather than a description. – user3169 Jan 5 '16 at 5:22
  • @closevoters Can you please comment on why you consider this question primarily opinion-based? – Franck Dernoncourt Jan 5 '16 at 5:53
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    @Franck Dernoncourt: "Italic" is the adjective. While one can use the past participle of verbs as adjectives, which "italicized" is the past participle of the verb "italicize," it's generally preferable to use an actual adjective that means the same thing if one exists, which one does. Maybe this notion of using "italicized" as an adjective comes from the fact that the antonym of the adjective "italic" is adjective "unitalicized." At any rate, go with "italic letters" rather than "italicized letters." – Benjamin Harman Jan 5 '16 at 8:31
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    @Franck Dernoncourt: You should also be aware that it's incorrect to say "most preferable." First, when you only have two items being compared like you do here, then you use the comparative "more" rather than the superlative "most." Second, "preferable" already means "more desirable," so you shouldn't put "more" in front of it anyway because it's redundant. Instead, simply say, "...but is there a preferable choice?" – Benjamin Harman Jan 5 '16 at 8:39
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When text letters have a non horizontal slant a native speaker will say

The text is in italics The text is italicized
The text uses italics

From my experience, a native would usually not use with in these cases

We denote scalars in italics. Scalars are in italics

Both sentences have the same meaning. The latter sentence is the most compact for your usage.

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    I'm not sure what you mean by "non horizontal slant". Do you mean "non-vertical slant"? Though, arguably, a slant is non-vertical by definition. Also, technically, slanted and italic letters are different: italic letters might have a different shape to roman letters that have been slanted (this post discusses the differences). However, the question is about word usage and not the technicalities of typesetting. I fully agree with your usage advice so +1. – David Richerby Jan 5 '16 at 11:15
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Italic is an adjective, emphasizing its current form, while italicized is a past participle, emphasizing what was done to it, as user3169's comment suggests. Both are reasonably correct, but it's fairly clear from that 2-gram that the former is more common; we usually care more about the fact of its appearance than the implication that someone went and made it that way.

An example in which you might use the latter is if someone has taken the time to italicize certain words in an existing document to pick them out. You might say, "Pay careful attention to the italicized words, which signify …" or perhaps "The italicized words in your papers are examples of purple prose I've found in your writing; you should be careful to limit your use of those accordingly." In neither case is this essential (they certainly can be said to look italic if they have been italicized), but it might be preferable.

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