Updated October 8th, 2020.
⌘-I toggles italics on and off. This works almost everywhere on a Mac– Mail, Pages, Text Edit, you name it. Even Microsoft Word. Highlight some text, hit ⌘-I, and the text becomes italicized– unless it was already italicized. In that case, the italicizing is removed. It’s a toggle.
Microsoft was the most notable exception to this standard keyboard shortcut. Rather than using standard keyboard shortcuts that everyone already knew, early versions of Word used Command-Shift-I for italics in Word, along with Command-Shift-B for bold and Command-Shift-U for underline. Eventually Microsoft switched to the shortcuts everyone else uses– Command-I, Command-B, Command-U. Except the Command-Shift versions still work, so use them if you’d like.
Of course you can hit ⌘-I before typing something. If you do that, whatever you type after that is italicized, until you either hit ⌘-I again or click to type somewhere else.
This is very handy.
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I used to be able to do this to get italics and underlining. Then, I had a problem with special characters — accented vowels, etc., so I set up Command plus the relevant letter to make those characters. I want to go back to having Command plus I give me italics and Command plus u give me underlining, but I don’t know how to turn off the accenting I set up with Command. I don’t remember where I set that up so that I can turn it off now. Please let me know if you have any suggestions. Thanks.
Hmmm. Third-party application maybe. Look in your Login Items (System Preferences/Users & Groups, then click your name, then click the Login Items button). See if something in there rings a bell. Typeit4me? Text Expander? Typinator? Maybe.