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Old 07-21-2011, 12:10 AM   #1
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Using Italics To Stress Words

So would it be acceptable to stress the importance of the words under these certain circumstances?

Here are the examples I want to use italics to stress the words.

1
He used the medicine to alleviate his anxiety in social situation. looking at his classmates that had tormented him for so long, those old memories of their torments began to activate his anxieties. His hands began shaking almost violently. He needed that medicine, and he needed it right now.

Is that acceptable?

2

Gregory was editing the new book by his friend, The Rearguard.


Number two is a fake title. Is it acceptable to use italics on the title of the book?
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Old 07-21-2011, 12:14 AM   #2
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Typically you do use italics for titles of books, so that makes sense.

As for the word stress, it's a personal choice. I'd argue that it depends on how many words you're stressing in the story. If that's it, go for it. But I'd be super careful of overusing the italics as it can get really annoying and start to look very amateurish.
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Old 07-21-2011, 12:19 AM   #3
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I used to italicize way too much, so the reader heard every line the way I did in my head. This was a terrible habit and it took a long time to break it, but I did.

Now I italicize only when the emphasis is needed for the line to make sense, such as indicating sarcasm or stressing a different word than one might expect, i.e., You went to the store? Edited to add clarification: Even so, I italicize only if the stressed word changes the meaning.

So I recommend letting your word choice and your trust in your reader not to be a dolt take the place of nearly all italics used for emphasis.

In the matter of the book title, how a publisher or editor wants to see titles is probably a part of their submission guidelines. If it's not, italics would be appropriate.

BTW, another thing to check on submission guidelines is whether they want actual italics or underlines which would be replaced with italics in the published version.

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Old 07-21-2011, 12:25 AM   #4
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as mentioned, italics are one of those things that you can and should use, but sparingly. some books don't have any, some do, but when they are all over the place, they look like the writer is either trying way to hard, or they were a huge fan of methamphetamines while writing
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Old 07-21-2011, 12:54 AM   #5
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I think italics, when used appropriately, are absolutely fine.
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Old 07-21-2011, 12:58 AM   #6
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I think italics are fine, just use them sparingly. Like Mutive said, it looks unprofessional to use them all the time.
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Old 07-21-2011, 02:02 AM   #7
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How does your favorite author use italics?
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Old 07-21-2011, 02:11 AM   #8
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The Chicago Manual of Style, (if you plan to be a writer you should buy a copy, preferably second hand so it is cheap,) says:

7-49: Italics for emphasis. Good writers use italics for emphasis only as an occasional adjunct to efficient sentence structure . . . yada yada . . . and gives a couple examples.

Your example #1 is fine.

8-172: . . . When quoted in text . . . titles of books, journals, plays, and other freestanding works are italicized.

Your example #2 is correct.

Usage questions like these are not matters of Divine Mandate. They are customs generally agreed upon and codified, for Americans, in two main resources -- the AP Stylebook and the abovementioned Chicago.

You should become familiar with, at least, Chicago. It's what your copyeditor will most likely use in correcting your manuscript.

Last edited by job; 07-21-2011 at 02:21 AM.
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Old 07-21-2011, 02:22 AM   #9
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How about words in a foreign language, like wakizashi?
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Old 07-21-2011, 02:27 AM   #10
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Foreign words are generally italicized.

Using italics in dialog or narration comes very close to giving stage directions. Each use should be examined very critically on whether it advances the plot, reveals character, or supports the theme. Generally speaking, italics don't do any of the above.

Titles of books or films, foreign words, and (in many cases) thoughts are italicized.
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Old 07-21-2011, 02:28 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AmsterdamAssassin View Post
How does your favorite author use italics?
Well one of my favorites, Brian Lumely, once told an entire story in his novel in italics. However, he broke it up throughout the novel and it was being told from a Wamphyri's (his name for vampires in his Necroscope series) point of view, so he was trying to give it a voice of its own.

Stephen King uses italics on tongue twisters. Such as on this one in his book It:

He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghost.

But it was one of his main characters who was remembering some therapy he had gone though because he stuttered really badly as a child.
Quote:
Titles of books or films, foreign words, and (in many cases) thoughts are italicized.
This is something I was wondering about earlier as well. Thanks.
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Old 07-21-2011, 02:32 AM   #12
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Chicago 15th says:

7-51: Italics. Italics are used for isolated words and phrases in a foreign language if they are likely to be unfamiliar to readers.
. . .
An entire sentence or a passage of two or more sentences in a foreign language is usually set in roman and enclosed in quotation marks.

7-54: Familiar foreign words. Foreign words and phrases familiar to most readers and listed in Websters are not italicized in an English context; they should be spelled as in Webster. . . . If confusion might arise, however, foreign terms are best italicized and spelled as in the original language. . . . The decision to italicize should not be based solely on whether a term appears in Websters.

7-55: Italics at first occurrence. If a foreign word not listed in an English dictionary is used repeatedly throughout a work, it need be italicized only on its first occurrence. If it appears only rarely, however, italics may be retained.

Chicago goes for ten or a dozen pages on when and how to use italics in exactly these cases.

You can get a new 16th edition for about $35. You can get a used 15th edition for half that. Really, there's no reason not to have this on your shelf.

Last edited by job; 07-21-2011 at 02:49 AM.
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Old 07-21-2011, 04:15 AM   #13
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I am reading a book in which italics were used for stress, and it is annoying, It is worse than using all capitals for yelling. I prefer to get that kind of information from the context.
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Old 07-21-2011, 05:46 AM   #14
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I'm taking an online workshop and the instructor made the point that the reader stops every time he encounters italics, to decide why they are there. So if you really want them to stop and take notice, fine. But if you do it too often, it's like placing hurdles in front of them. You don't want to make it too difficult--they might not want to keep going.
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Old 07-21-2011, 06:52 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by job View Post
You can get a new 16th edition for about $35. You can get a used 15th edition for half that. Really, there's no reason not to have this on your shelf.
Hi, job. Could you or anyone else point me toward the best online resource for style questions?
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Old 07-21-2011, 09:53 AM   #16
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I agree with most everything said in this thread. I absolutely hate italics used to emphasis words. Occasionally, it's... acceptable. Some books use them way too much, y'know? It's like, I really don't want to think your character is a teen/full-grown snob, really!

Joke aside... I have... nothing... else to add. Except that I hate ellipses, too...
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Old 07-21-2011, 05:03 PM   #17
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Mercedes Lackey. Way too many italics. If Kris got a toy horse, Lyra had to have a toy horse.... If he got a toy fort, she had to have a toy village....
Absolutely no need for those italics, though I can see the sentence read that way in the author's head.
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Old 07-21-2011, 06:04 PM   #18
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I agree with Snick.
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Old 07-22-2011, 02:29 AM   #19
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Bear in mind while writing that agents/editors/publishers generally want italicized words underlined rather than italicized in a manuscript.
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Old 07-22-2011, 04:31 AM   #20
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Using italics for emphasis is fine, if done sparingly, and correctly. It's one of the proper uses for italics.
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Old 07-22-2011, 11:57 PM   #21
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Hi, job. Could you or anyone else point me toward the best online resource for style questions?
(my underline)

My advice is quite simple: Do not use an online source. Buy the books.

Having said that:

Chicago is the bible on punctuation and capitalization. Chicago is where your copyeditor goes to look up use of commas.

By style, you probably also mean word usage. Chicago has a small section on this. A standard usage book is Fowler. You might also look at The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style.

Getting into questions of grammar, which may also be what you mean by style, I have found the St Martin's Handbook to be clear and inclusive. But I own maybe six thick grammar books for looking up knotty points of grammar because St Martin's doesn't cover everything.

A good way to choose your grammar book is to visit the bookstore of a sizeable college, look through their offerings, and see what appeals to you. Take one question -- for instance, using commas with nonrestrictive relative clauses -- and see what each one has to say and how they say it.

The standard grammar books tend to be available used and cheap.
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Old 07-23-2011, 05:06 AM   #22
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My advice is quite simple: Do not use an online source. Buy the books.
Thanks, job. I guess my stance is that some stuff -- the final niceties of form -- might be left to the copyeditor if I were ever to have a manuscript headed toward publication. I'm not smart enough or dedicated enough to keep up with those details.

Mostly I'd be looking for usage polls. How are writers using 'myriad' these days, for example.

I have shelves and shelves of language books, mostly from my college days, but the internet is seductively easy. I love the search feature. I don't think I've read a hardcopy manual for any of my equipment in years.
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Old 07-23-2011, 06:53 AM   #23
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I'm taking an online workshop and the instructor made the point that the reader stops every time he encounters italics, to decide why they are there.. . . .
Interesting. I don't. They are used with a book title or foreign word or for emphasis. (Or sometimes for interior dialogue.) I've never stopped to decide why they are there in any specific instance. Maybe I am unusual in that way.

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Old 07-23-2011, 06:21 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by job View Post
(my underline)

My advice is quite simple: Do not use an online source. Buy the books.

Having said that:

Chicago is the bible on punctuation and capitalization. Chicago is where your copyeditor goes to look up use of commas.

By style, you probably also mean word usage. Chicago has a small section on this. A standard usage book is Fowler. You might also look at The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style.

Getting into questions of grammar, which may also be what you mean by style, I have found the St Martin's Handbook to be clear and inclusive. But I own maybe six thick grammar books for looking up knotty points of grammar because St Martin's doesn't cover everything.

A good way to choose your grammar book is to visit the bookstore of a sizeable college, look through their offerings, and see what appeals to you. Take one question -- for instance, using commas with nonrestrictive relative clauses -- and see what each one has to say and how they say it.

The standard grammar books tend to be available used and cheap.
Thank you for this post.
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Old 07-24-2011, 05:29 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pegasus View Post
some stuff -- the final niceties of form -- might be left to the copyeditor if I were ever to have a manuscript headed toward publication. I'm not smart enough or dedicated enough to keep up with those details.
I have to raise a voice in favor of learning as much as you can. We never stop studying our craft.

For instance, here's a line you wrote:
looking at his classmates that had tormented him for so long

You chose 'that' instead of 'who'.
Argument could be made for either. For various reasons, I'd go with 'who'. You should have an equally good reason for choosing 'that'. This is why we study the language -- so we make informed choices between 'who' and 'that'.

Ok. Yes. In some cases the fine points will be a matter of -- 'the copyeditor will fix that'.
Yes. Don't sweat the small stuff.

But it's essential to have the fundamentals under control. A couple grammatical bloopers or poor word choices in the first few pages and the acquiring editor will toss the manuscript.


Quote:
Originally Posted by pegasus View Post
Mostly I'd be looking for usage polls. How are writers using 'myriad' these days, for example.
Websters is very much built on usage, rather than historical meaning. You can safely take their definition -- and the order of their definitions -- as standard modern usage.

Websters *cough* is online.

(Web's definition of myriad is here. I had no idea it meant 10K. Thanks for leading me to that.)

Last edited by job; 07-24-2011 at 05:35 AM.
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