Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Italics = Insecure Writing


Italics ... are they the kiss of death? Sometimes I think they look so pretty, but other times (especially when reading a book late at night) my eyes groan (yes - that's right) because italics are harder to read for an extended period of time.

Even if the writer only uses italics for one word in the sentence, it still makes me squint. Because I pause and question if I would have been smart enough to know that ONE word was important without the writer telling me so.

From SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS:
"Then there are the stylistic devices that make a writer look insecure, the most notabe offenders being exclamation points and italics. ... frequent italics are the typographical equivalent of an elbow in the ribs and a frantic, "Did you get it? Did you?" (page 200)

Do you use italics in your writing? When do you think they're necessary?



27 comments:

  1. I don't use them very often, but I've found there have been a few cases when they felt necessary.

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  2. I already knew I was insecure, and apparently that extends to my writing. I overuse both those things (plus hyphens and commas and parentheses and ellipses), especially when it comes to quotes. Perhaps it's because my characters are my performers and I am a very picky director. I make sure I give plenty of not-so-subtle cues and stage directions because I want them to perform just so, every time.

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  3. I try to avoid them when I can but sometimes they are necessary!

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  4. I find the use of italics essential. Of course the writer must be familiar with the indications for their use. They should not be used inappropriately, not so much because they cause irritation to the reader but because they suggest the the writer does not know what he or she is about.

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  5. I'm pretty judicious in the use of italics. Some times it seems to me they add an emphasis I can't get any other way, particularly if it's a bit of sarcasm.

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  6. I'm still guilty of that nasty exclamation point, but not so much the italics.

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  7. I sometimes write in the 3rd person past tense, but when my main character is in a tough situation and she (mostly I write in a woman's voice--go figure) just needs to let it out, I write her thoughts in italics. This is when her voice is heard in 1st person present tense. It's intentionally jarring enough to get the reader's attention. Yes, it's done strategically and sparingly. I know some will say you don't use them at all. I've been lectured on it by woman who made sure I knew she had masters degree in English. Yeah, right. It all depends on which part of the country the editor lives in whether they prefer to use italics or not. So should you use italics in your writing? The answer is ... it depends.

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  8. Just so you know, I didn't like using the letter "a" today. :)

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  9. I don't use them very often, maybe less than five for a whole book. Sometimes they just feel like they have to be there. Course even when that's the case, I usually go back and edit them out later.

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  10. I think typing in all caps can be the same. Interesting blog post.
    Sweetbearies Art Tips
    .

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  11. My current WIP is paranormal with some telepathic communication. I use italics to differentiate being silent and spoken dialogue.

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    1. Ah! I did the same thing with one of my manuscripts! :) And in my current ms, I use italics to offset certain "playback" scenes (hard to explain out of context), but I'm wondering if italics are the right choice, or if a different type style would serve the purpose better. ... Stylistic choices.

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  12. I use italics when the character is having internal dialogue.

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  13. I've noticed many writers will use italics for internal dialogue when the story is written in third person, but it's not a required stylistic choice. You can write the internal dialogue with no italics if you want ...

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  14. I've heard you should use them to denote thought though I'm still not 100% on that. I get what you mean though about them being a bit like making a pun, then gurning and saying "Do you see what I did there?" :)

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  15. I use them occasionally. Most of the time it's because I think a sentence flows better when there's particular emphasis on a specific word.

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  16. This was another thing I find myself zapping during editing. When I'm writing the first draft, it's instinct to italicize words I want to put emphasis on. It's only later during edits that the italics stops me and I consider whether I really need it or not.

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  17. I do use italics. Sparingly, as is the key with everything including ice cream! There is always a 'good' use of something and an overabundance but just because one uses a trick doesn't make one a weak or insecure writer.

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  18. I rarely use italics - maybe for a thought inside the MC's head, but that's about it. One word in a sentence italicized is annoying and can definitely be hard to read.

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  19. This something I've not thought too much about. I tend to just accept them when I read them--they don't bother me, none that I can remember at least. Italics have their place I suppose but should have a purpose that makes sense.

    Lee
    A Faraway View
    An A to Z Co-host blog

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  20. In my Redcliffe novels I began using italics to differentiate conversations that were not spoken aloud. I do agree that too many italics can cause confusion, but at the same time I think they are very useful in the correct situations.

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  21. I mostly feel they are appropriate when someone is thinking to themselves and not speaking aloud, but for emphasis only they shouldn't be used. And I agree about the eyes. As writers, our eyes get enough of a workout!

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  22. I went back and read (fine, glanced at) all my blog posts for April. I enjoy italics now and again. Usually to GET YOUR ATTENTION and to prove a point.

    Like Laura, I love fun punctuation.

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    1. I think the advice is intended more for manuscripts rather than blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, etc. :)

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  23. I use them in some stories to indicate a thought or voice heard in the mind. Is that bad? I think I'm insecure regardless of my italics crimes.
    LTWilton’s Blog

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    1. It's perfectly acceptable to use italics for thoughts when writing in third person, and it's okay to use them to indicate voices heard in the head with any writing perspective.

      Really - it's a personal stylistic choice. :)

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