Use of italics for emphasis

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TimE
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Use of italics for emphasis

Postby TimE » Sat Feb 15, 2020 9:53 am

There are plenty of sites around that caution against overuse of italics to emphasise a few words in a sentence. As a reader, I tend to agree with this advice. Sometimes, I read a line with one or more words emphasised and I falter - thinking, as I read the line in my head - that's not the word I'd emphasise. Okay - that - is a word that's emphasised more than most!
Take this example from a published novel - 'I will not be nervous around him ' - If I had any emphasis, I'd put it only on the not, so I stumble.

I've crit a few stories recently - WotF entries and others - in which italics are used more heavily than I would, and I've pointed it out.
Real life speech in particular has all sorts of inflections we can't get across, it also has erms, and umms, for which advice is generally not to include. I'm not one  for shouting about writing rules, and this isn't exactly given as a 'rule', but I don't see italics used for emphasis that often in novels I've read - except for the writer I've quoted who uses this far more than any other I've read and done pretty well. So, what's the general opinion on use of italics for emphasis  for WotF entries where we don't know the opinion of the judges.
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Andy Dibble
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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby Andy Dibble » Sun Feb 16, 2020 2:52 am

TimE wrote:Real life speech in particular has all sorts of inflections we can't get across, it also has erms, and umms, for which advice is generally not to include. I'm not one  for shouting about writing rules, and this isn't exactly given as a 'rule', but I don't see italics used for emphasis that often in novels I've read - except for the writer I've quoted who uses this far more than any other I've read and done pretty well. So, what's the general opinion on use of italics for emphasis  for WotF entries where we don't know the opinion of the judges.


I don't have a keen enough memory of WotF stories to compare the frequency of italics in them to the frequency in other stories. It seems like an interesting machine learning problem :) I can say that when Dave edited my piece he added italics-for-emphasis 3-4 times. Anecdotal as this evidence may be, it suggests that Dave is not averse to italics used for emphasis. This isn't surprising, when the italics match how we would speak, it's not distracting for readers (like err and ums are). Indeed, emphasis conveys what a character thinks is important in what they are saying; it can change the tone of dialog.

As you said, italics used to emphasize words that aren't emphasized in how we talk can be quite distracting (Neil Gaiman's The Sandman (which I love) frequently exhibited this problem).

TimE
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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby TimE » Sun Feb 16, 2020 3:49 am

Thanks for the response. Interesting to hear DF's editing of your story (I'll look out for it when I read your story!) I'm not against italics for emphasis but I remain in the camp of limiting their use.
Some HMs More Rs - I keep thinking I'm getting closer, but perhaps not.
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AlexH
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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby AlexH » Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:53 am

I find your example in the opening post difficult to read. I've read stories that have whole chapters in italics and find those difficult to read too (one was from two different viewpoints, with one of those in italics).

I agree that limited use is fine, such as emphasis in the occasional sentence. I can't say I've ever been distracted by italics in WotF or most pro-level publications.
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Probably free for critique swaps, but double-check in case I'm away.
If you're a new writer and concerned about giving a critique, you're welcome to send me something anyway. :)

TimE
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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby TimE » Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:29 am

AlexH wrote:I find your example in the opening post difficult to read. I've read stories that have whole chapters in italics and find those difficult to read too (one was from two different viewpoints, with one of those in italics).

I agree that limited use is fine, such as emphasis in the occasional sentence. I can't say I've ever been distracted by italics in WotF or most pro-level publications.


A problem with being a writer and a reader is getting distracted by things - both good and bad. Whatever I use as a bookmarker gets smaller and smaller as I get thru a story - with me ripping my marker up so that I can come back to pages with elements I particularly like.

But yes, italics being used for different povs and for thought as well, seems another reason to me for their use for emphasis to be low.
Some HMs More Rs - I keep thinking I'm getting closer, but perhaps not.
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storysinger
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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby storysinger » Mon Feb 17, 2020 7:41 am

I use italics a lot. When I have an MC that does telepathic communication the words are italicized.
I've read stories by published authors that have done the same.
Once the reader knows what is happening it's easy to follow, as long as it is consistent with the flow of the story.
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AlexH
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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby AlexH » Mon Feb 17, 2020 8:19 am

storysinger wrote:Once the reader knows what is happening it's easy to follow, as long as it is consistent with the flow of the story.

It isn't easy to follow if the reader finds italics difficult to read, like many (including me) do. I find occasional words and standalone sentences in italics okay to read. I struggle when there are blocks of italics or constructions like the one TimE mentioned in the opening post.

Poetry-wise, it's more common to write dialogue or thoughts in italics.
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Probably free for critique swaps, but double-check in case I'm away.
If you're a new writer and concerned about giving a critique, you're welcome to send me something anyway. :)

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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby RSchibler » Mon Feb 17, 2020 4:36 pm

Uh oh. The character climax of my novel is all mind speech and is a three way italics conversion. Guess it won’t be up your alley!
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V36: R, HM, HM, SHM
V37: HM, P

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Dustin Adams
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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby Dustin Adams » Tue Feb 18, 2020 11:17 am

TimE wrote:Take this example from a published novel - 'I will not be nervous around him ' - If I had any emphasis, I'd put it only on the not, so I stumble.

In this example, the emphasis is only on the not. It's a double negative in regards to the italics.

As for me, I love italics, but try to limit them to only a few per short story. Five, maybe. The most important five. More than that I figure my wording isn't strong enough, so I investigate my verbs.

Also, quick note, Dave has said he prefers italics to underline. Even with Courier font.
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TimE
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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby TimE » Tue Feb 18, 2020 11:27 am

Dustin Adams wrote:
TimE wrote:Take this example from a published novel - 'I will not be nervous around him ' - If I had any emphasis, I'd put it only on the not, so I stumble.

In this example, the emphasis is only on the not. It's a double negative in regards to the italics.

As for me, I love italics, but try to limit them to only a few per short story. Five, maybe. The most important five. More than that I figure my wording isn't strong enough, so I investigate my verbs.

Also, quick note, Dave has said he prefers italics to underline. Even with Courier font.


A double negative in italics so the emphasis is on the word not italicised???? Well, that one's new to me.

Did you hear the one where guy on the podium says in no language in the world can a double positive mean a negative. To which a guy in the audience says - yeah, yeah.
(Okay, you probably did - still a joke I like)
Some HMs More Rs - I keep thinking I'm getting closer, but perhaps not.
CWA-Debut Dagger shortlist. https://thecwa.co.uk/colours/ (Still trying to find my genre - but perhaps it's scifi - and perhaps it's not)

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Dustin Adams
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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby Dustin Adams » Tue Feb 18, 2020 11:45 am

I have not heard that joke. I like!
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AlexH
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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby AlexH » Tue Feb 18, 2020 1:02 pm

RSchibler wrote:Uh oh. The character climax of my novel is all mind speech and is a three way italics conversion. Guess it won’t be up your alley!

Don't worry - I don't really read novels anyway! wotf011 wotf001

Italics are more difficult to read for many dyslexic people (estimated at around 10% of the population), particularly blocks of italics (I don't think the occasional word is too bad). Anyway - I don't mean to put anyone off using italics, but I think it's good to be aware of these things. A slightly off-white background is easier to read on (whether screen, paper or whiteboard) than black on pure white too. I even read double negatives and passive voice make reading more difficult for some dyslexic people (maybe as they make sentences longer?).

I guess we must have dyslexic members of the forum? I have a writer friend who is dyslexic and struggles more with (blocks of) italics.
35: R R R | 36: R HM R R | 37: HM ?

Probably free for critique swaps, but double-check in case I'm away.
If you're a new writer and concerned about giving a critique, you're welcome to send me something anyway. :)

LibrarianBarbarian
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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby LibrarianBarbarian » Mon Mar 02, 2020 12:22 pm

I used to have a big problem with the overuse of italics. I'd have several on each page in dialogue, and huge blocks of italicized text for characters' memories and thoughts. I still use a few, but I had to consciously focus on weeding them out. I think I was emphasizing the proper words, but it was just too much.

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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby Dustin Adams » Tue Mar 03, 2020 8:50 am

LibrarianBarbarian wrote:I used to have a big problem with the overuse of italics. I'd have several on each page in dialogue, and huge blocks of italicized text for characters' memories and thoughts. I still use a few, but I had to consciously focus on weeding them out. I think I was emphasizing the proper words, but it was just too much.

I think this is an example of don't write how we talk. Like saying like and um all the time.
My conversations would be 40% italics, but my stories are like, um, 5%.
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ellisael
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Re: Use of italics for emphasis

Postby ellisael » Thu Mar 12, 2020 12:38 am

I tend to agree with the line of thought of the OP. I would imagine emphasizing only 'not' and not a whole sentence. I do think, even in my writing, i minimize the use of italics unless absolutely necessary.


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