View Full Version : "How do you format THIS?"

09-09-2004, 11:10 AM
Let's say you have a line of dialogue with something like this...

"What the heck is he doing here?"

Do you italicize the ! and closing quotation mark as well?

I checked a few novels and found different ways of doing it, even within the same book.

About all that they seem to agree on is if the whole line is in italics, then the punctuation and quotation marks are as well.


Any thoughts on this?

09-09-2004, 11:19 AM
in your example only here is italicized. The punctuation and closing " are part of the larger sentence which isn't italicized.

For more see the Chicago Manual of Style, found and any library or bookstore, as well as online.

09-09-2004, 01:06 PM
Juts don't worry about it. An editor simply isn't going to care one way or the other, and will always change it to in-house style, anyway. And in-house style varies frequently. Most editors learned grammar years ago, and never pick up any grammar book. The vast majority of writers use Strunk & White, and I've yet to meet an editor who changed anything done according to Strunk & White.

It's good to have proper formatting, but you can worry yourself silly over details that just aren't important.

09-09-2004, 10:01 PM
Some people, including me, do care about these things. If you don't fine. I hope you can learn to accept that we do, and it makes us very happy to know the answers for reasons I won't waste your time iterating.

Thanks for the admonition not to worry, though.


09-10-2004, 10:01 AM
Thanks, Gala and James. I was hoping someone would check it out in the Chicago Manual, but I wasn't sure if it'd be in there.

But you know, Gala, it looks like James is right. I just checked a few more books, and the inclusion of the punctuation and end quotation mark were used in The Accidental Tourist, Stranger in a Strange Land, and Tom Sawyer.

The Accidental Tourist example - "I'll let you get on with your life," she said - italicized even the comma.

I was glad to see this, 'cause it's how I thought it should be - just by the look of it - "You understand?" vs. "You understand?" In the first one, the question mark looks like a dork standing at attention, but in the second he's getting into the act.

Guess I'm thinking way too much about it, huh?

Something else I found through all this is just how rarely good authors use italics in dialogue.

09-12-2004, 08:37 AM
Whoops. I just realized that when you submit a manuscript, there shouldn't be any italicized words at all - they should be underlined.

"And it would look awkward to have it look like this."
"Instead of this."

09-13-2004, 01:53 AM
As a former business studies teacher, I always taught never to underline punctuation. It does look silly.

Cheers Frae Scotland

09-16-2004, 06:38 AM
I was under the impression (according to the Chicago Manual of Style) that you would write here? instead of here? Because the reader needs continuity in the sentence. In section 6.71, it is said that the punctuation is to be set in the styple of the immediately preceding word. I found this out because I had the same question about several of my passages.

09-16-2004, 09:44 AM
I work for a book compositor. We lay out college texts, from copyedited MS to the printer. Punctuation following italic words is italic; punctuation following bold words is bold. At least, that is the house standard. We are always bound by the dictates of the customer.

09-18-2004, 02:03 PM
Very interesting, Dan. Wish I could see some examples of what he did - maybe moving the word to the end of the sentence?

It also reminds me of Fitzgerald's quote that you're allowed five exclamation points in your writing career.

09-19-2004, 07:02 AM
I think "he has his own, different, means" in the quotation was a sort of built-in example.

09-19-2004, 08:56 AM
When referring to a word, like in the "just and unjust" example, either use quotes or italics.

Dorian W. Gray
02-24-2010, 09:08 AM
I can't even figure out the right punctuations, and you guys are arguing about the fonts of those punctuations?

I don't even know what difference they make... And I just finished writing a novel - few of my chapters are dialogue intensive!

Please don't tell me I have to go back and reformat my dialogues?

Urgh... being an ESL writer sucks.


M.R.J. Le Blanc
02-24-2010, 09:17 AM
I'm not sure, but I'm scratching my head as to why this thread is in B&BC. Not your fault, it's just kind of weird because this is a noveling question. I'd look in the Novels section, preferably in the stickies at the top of the forum and see if you can find your answers there. I'm pretty sure there's a formatting question or section in there somewhere. Another option you could try is to have a look at english-written books and pay close attention to the punctuations. Sometimes learning by example can be a great teacher.

02-24-2010, 09:30 AM
Please don't tell me I have to go back and reformat my dialogues?

Unlikely. I don't think anyone really cares if your question mark was in italics or not. It's a tiny detail that'll get changed to house style anyway, so just be consistent.

02-24-2010, 10:17 AM
Ah, good ol' thread #7066. I'll be sorry to see you go, but there's better forums out there for you now.



02-24-2010, 12:17 PM
I can't even figure out the right punctuations, and you guys are arguing about the fonts of those punctuations?

I don't even know what difference they make... And I just finished writing a novel - few of my chapters are dialogue intensive!

Please don't tell me I have to go back and reformat my dialogues?

Urgh... being an ESL writer sucks.


Dorian, with all due respect that you aren't monolingual like pathetic ol' me....if you want to get published in a language that's not your native language, you have to learn all aspects of preparing your manuscript, including when to italicise text, in the target language.

I know that conventions vary from language to language, so you can't necessarily go by what's 'the norm' in your native tongue. But you still have to learn how to do it in English if you want to secure a publishing deal with an English-language publisher.

Look at it like this. Let's say you're an editor, and you can choose one manscript from the two sitting on your desk. Both are equally good in story, structure, and characterisation. As a matter of fact, in all aspects but one, the manuscripts are equally good. That one difference is that one is written in pristine English following standard conventions with few grammatical and spelling mistakes. The other one has grammar and spelling problems, and there are other conventions not followed correctly. This second one will require significantly more editing than the first. Remember, you can only choose one.

Which do you choose?

Right. The one that's going to cost less to put through the production process.

An exceptionally great book will get picked up despite writing flaws. There's an award-winning YA author who has dyslexia and whose work is full of errors, but publishers buy her books because it's worth it for them to pay the extra costs of fixing it up.

My point is that there's no way for you to know if your book is exceptionally great. So to have the best shot at selling your work, you have to make sure it's as flaw-free as possible. That means mastering English to a professional level (remember, your work is 'up against' that of professional writers) and learning manuscript conventions. A lot of information on the latter can be found right here at AW.

02-24-2010, 07:09 PM
Sheesh! This thread is FIVE YEARS old.