Scientific names in italics in ID remarks and comments

I currently use italics whenever I write a scientific/latin/binomial name, in ID remarks, comments or mail ect, but notice that a lot of others -including some professionals, on iNat- don’t. Just the the name (a capital on the genus) in non-italics.

Doodia aspera or Doodia aspera

I’m fully aware of how names are properly written, but curious as to what others do, especially in the international sense on iNat, just in fairly casual comments ect

Note my experience is mostly with plants, in Australia.

This the first time I’ve posted a new thread, so I’ll probably make mistakes - please point them out :)


Call me lazy but i usually don’t because it’s extra work.


I prefer to type *Genus species* so that people see it as Genus species, quickly identifying it as a scientific name that can be skipped over without ever looking it up.

What’s a bit more useful is to find the iNat taxon here, copy the URL and type it as: [Common Name (*Genus species*)](URL) so that people can click on it and see photos or observations.

For example, bogue, a kind of fish, would be typed as [Bogue (*Boops boops*)]( and shows up as Bogue (Boops boops).

This works in iNat observation comments and on the forum. Way more work for the writer, but much easier on the reader.


Is it possible to do italics in the notes section when adding a new observation? Do the *s work there? In comments I normally highlight then click on I, but that isn’t an option for notes.


For observation notes I never use italics (i.e. markup) if I use botanical names to, for example, describe nearby by species or the habitat. This is because the notes section of the observation gets transferred to ALA (if in Australia) and/or GBIF etc and I think markup in a spreadsheet or database entry would look wrong


Yes it’s possible, but I personally don’t use markup in the notes, see my comment above (I think we were writing our replies at the same time because I didn’t see your question until I hit save)

Thanks - good to know!

I just checked some of my comments and sometimes I use italics and sometimes I don’t. I don’t think it’s related to laziness but the complexity or casualness of the comment I’m making. A bit like how sometimes I use punctuation mark at the end of sentences and sometimes not, depending on context. I often drop the punctuation mark at the end of a paragraph not because I don’t know and agree that some kind of punctuation mark should be there but because it somehow, to me, makes the message sound too formal. Weird. Outside of iNat and regarding email I will often not use italics as well because I do not know if the recipient(s) use HTML formatted email or plain text and receiving an email with HTML markup scattered throughout is annoying to read. In the case of botany it’s also worth noting that the Code doesn’t, as far as I know, actually require anything to be italicised and it’s a recommendation not a requirement (it has nothing to do with nomenclature) (Edit: I just checked and I don’t think it’s even mentioned as a recommendation). I’m not sure about zoology or virology etc. That said, it’s a strong convention and I’d never not use italics in something formal


I usually don’t italicize scientific names because I assume my audience on iNat is casual and that most professionals don’t really care unless it’s a manuscript or some assignment. I use it about as often as I use cursive writing, which is practically never.


Why don’t you write in cursive?


For plants the capitalisation of common names annoys me more than the lack of italics in botanical names outside of formal documents. In Australia at least there is a strong convention for the common names of plants to be in lower case unless part of the name is a proper noun and this is the expectation for common names of plants on iNat as well. E.g. I’d expect to see “Brisbane wattle”, and not “Brisbane Wattle” for Acacia fimbriata; I’d expect to see “common silkpod”, and not “Common Silkpod” for Parsonsia straminea. In a sentence I wouldn’t write “The Monkey ate a Banana”. I wouldn’t capitalise the first letter(s) of strawberry, grape, cos lettuce and so on unless they were part of a title, but this convention is not really formally written anywhere (although for iNat it is in the Curator Guide)


Be aware that common name conventions vary from group to group and, apparently from continent to continent. I’m so used to the initial capitals for many of the animal groups I work with (birds, etc.) that it feels odd not to use initial caps for formal common plant names. I am comfortable with “the monkey ate a banana”, but I would prefer to see (and I’m making these names up), “the Eastern Red-tailed Monkey ate an Iwane’s Point-tipped Banana” when I want some specificity. But I understand that botanists and zoologists each go their own way!


It’s illegible. I mean that in two ways: 1) My own handwriting is horrible 2) Each person has variations in their style, which makes it more difficult to read in general.

It’s not taught in most U.S. schools anymore, thankfully. I haven’t used it for anything but my signature since 2006, because I literally haven’t needed to.


Thank you for your explanation, that’s sad to hear, especially about schools.


I personally capitalise common names referring to a single species, and don’t capitalise names referring to a group of different species. I find it just makes it clearer whether I’m referring to a specific species or a taxonomic group. for example, if I type coralgrouper, I mean the genus Plectropomus, not any one specific species within that genus. If I type Blue-Spotted Coralgrouper, I specifically mean P. laevis.

It also helps clarify if the species has a name starting with an adjective. for example, if I type little kingfisher, I mean a kingfisher that happens to be small, regardless of species. If I type Little Kingfisher, I mean a specific species, Ceyx pusillus.

That said, I only deal with animals, and I don’t know what is typically done with plants and other non-animal organisms regarding capitalisation of names.


I personally prefer to italicise scientific names. I find it helps clarify that it is a scientific name and makes the sentence easier to read and understand.


I usually don’t italicize unless it is in a professional environment, mainly due to laziness, but also due to not feeling like I need to. Even then, most professionals don’t care unless you’re writing a manuscript or some other important document.


I guess I was unaware that you could italicize names in the notes or comments within an iNat record. As others have said, I tend not to bother doing so in email messages ( where it is easily done) due to laziness or the casual nature of the communications.

I’ve noticed newspapers routinely don’t italicize scientific names. Maybe there’s some journalism convention about not doing so?

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Doubt it, that’s probably ignorance of the biological convention by the editors.


Yeah this is right I think. Even in peer-reviewed medical journals (not newspapers) I sometimes see botanical names either not italicised or, even worse, written as Genus Species (with the epithet capitalised as well). So, I think ignorance rather than anything else. I find it very hard to imagine it’s a stylistic choice