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Blockquotes are often shown in italics. If properly done (I guess), any italics in the actual quote is then "reversed", becoming upright. I generally have a much harder time discerning upright type in a block of italics than type in italics in a block of upright, often having to look twice to make sure the text I just read was actually upright (I assume I'm not alone). In short, upright inside italics always seems to interrupt my reading.

Why is that?

Example (may or may not be a good one depending on the font):

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Proin enim elit, porta et pulvinar a, molestie vel dui. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Fusce congue, augue non dapibus dignissim, justo diam luctus justo, vel eleifend urna dolor nec quam. Sed quis varius velit, ut lacinia risus. Curabitur efficitur ultrices tellus nec finibus.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Proin enim elit, porta et pulvinar a, molestie vel dui. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Fusce congue, augue non dapibus dignissim, justo diam luctus justo, vel eleifend urna dolor nec quam. Sed quis varius velit, ut lacinia risus. Curabitur efficitur ultrices tellus nec finibus.

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Is the effect more or less noticeable if you use slanted but non-italic text for the blockquote? (E.g., What is the difference between italics and slanted text?) – Joshua Taylor Feb 25 at 15:13
    
I have to admit for me the opposite is the case. I ever have a hard time recognizing italic out of a text block. especially if it is just a single word. while in the second block, I allmost immediately catched the non italic word out of it. Never noticed it before. So this is unusual? – Zaibis Feb 25 at 16:19
    
@JoshuaTaylor no idea. If you have an example I'll have a look at it, though it might depend on the font. – cmeeren Feb 25 at 19:34
    
I remember reading - long, long ago now - that human eyesight has been conditioned to read more orthogonally aligned text by the printing press and subsequent technology, so any variations are relatively easy to spot (not just italics - gaps in the text or outsized letters). Earlier when letter writing in cursive hand was the norm, this would not have been the case. Note that this was a book on pattern recognition and not typography, but I believe the principle applies here. – Rob Craig Feb 29 at 22:13
    
@RobCraig Interesting! Do you know which book it was? – cmeeren Mar 1 at 7:42
up vote 7 down vote accepted

The design of italics is that they will stand out inside a regular font face, this means that they catch our eye more that the regular text. So a word with italic styli in a regular text will pop out and stand out. But when a large paragraph of the text is italic and only one word is with a regular font, the "noise" from the italic text is so hard that the regular word is swallowed and not noticeable as in the opposite example.

According to practicaltypography.com

Use bold and italic as lit­tle as pos­si­ble. They are tools for em­pha­sis. But if every­thing is em­pha­sized, then noth­ing is em­pha­sized.

Here is an additional source talking about ITALICS WITHIN ITALICS

The idea with italics is generally to set apart the text so you know it’s special.

In conclusion

In typography, italic type is a cursive font based on a stylized form of calligraphic handwriting.

wikipedia - Italic_type

italic is especially useful for creating a sense of contrast with the regular.

designwithfontforge.com -Italic

share|improve this answer
    
Do you know whether the same effect holds with simply slanted text (vs. proper italic forms)? Would the upright stand out any more? – Joshua Taylor Feb 25 at 15:12
5  
This answer is rather tautologous: OP: "Why are italics easier to see?"; you: "Italics are easier to see because they stand out". What is it about italics that make them stand out? What is going on in our brains to explain this? – Polyfun Feb 25 at 17:24
3  
The first paragraph is almost just restating the question. – immibis Feb 25 at 19:26

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