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For example,

Did you know that <em>hot</em> was used to mean
"<a title="What is the origin of “hot” as “good-looking”
or “attractive”?" href="http://english.stackexchange.com/a/84227/1696">
sexually attractive</a>" as long ago as 1450? (Though it seems that
in earlier use, it more commonly meant "sexually attract<em>ed</em>".)

The second use of <em> in the above is correct: I want to emphasise the suffix -ed. However, the first use is incorrect. I want to use italic type to indicate the “use/mention distinction”. This is the proper preserve of the <i> tag. But WordPress autoconverts <i> to <em>. Is there any way to get around this?

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I think you mean in the Visual Editor? You can use <i> or <em> in the HTML Editor. BTW ... <i> is not deprecated, but it is only a style tag now not for indicating text 'use/mention' see w3.org/TR/html4/present/graphics.html#edef-I – Damien Sep 30 '12 at 20:56

I am using the plugin AddQuicktag from @bueltge in some blogs to create a separate <i> button:

enter image description here

That creates a nice little button with the text i!, and WordPress will not touch it.

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