The agency developed a modus operandi for such situations.

Is "modus operandi" italicised in such a sentence as this?

  • 5
    This question can be generalized to "When do words from another language cease to be italicized as foreign?" It has been answered at EL&U for various words and phrases—for example, When using the French word 'sans' in an English sentence, should I use italics? The general answer is, when a phrase appears in English dictionaries as an anglicized term, you are free to treat it as English—not foreign—and drop the special (italic) treatment.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jul 13, 2015 at 22:53
  • There is, of course, no requirement to use italics for Latin terms (or French, or Italian). It's just a convention to clue the reader that the term is indeed "foreign" (or in some other way worthy of careful observation), so that there is less confusion.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 13, 2015 at 23:03

1 Answer 1


Obey the dictates of your manual of style, either the one you've chosen or the one thrust upon you. I use The Chicago Manual of Style, which specifies italics for Latin words that have not been adopted into the English:

His modus operandi is veni, vidi, vici.

I would say that any Latin term that has its own acronym in police procedures (i.e, "MO") has been incorporated into the language.

CMS places scholarly abbreviations ("ibid.", "op. cit", etc.) in roman type:

The abbreviation "op. cit." stands for opere citato, Latin for "in the work cited."

The word sic, Latin for thus, to leave no doubt that a quoted passage is how it actually appears in its source, is italicized:

*It was a hamm-handed [sic] attempt at humor.*

  • Modus operandi is listed as a noun in Merriam-Webster without any mention of Latin or other usage note, which would suggest it's incorporated into English. (It's italicized in their examples, but the word under discussion is always italicized in MW so that doesn't prove anything either way.)
    – Stuart F
    Dec 11, 2023 at 10:13

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