When italic characters are unavailable, how should I style a title or a word used as a word?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
In handwritten and typewritten material—where italics are impossible to render—titles of works normally italicized, words used as words, and letters used as letters are underlined:
Accommodation has two c’s and two m’s.
In digital environments, if italics and underlining are unavailable and you need to refer to the title of a work normally italicized, insert an underscore on either side of the title:
For words used as words and letters used as letters, use quotation marks:
Put “i” before “e” except after “c” or when sounding like “a” as in “neighbor” and “weigh.”
But if the quotation marks would cause clutter, as before an apostrophe—
“Accommodation” has two “c”’s and two “m”’s
then revise to avoid the problem:
The letter “c” and the letter “m” appear twice in “accommodation.”