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Thread: Some italics questions

  1. #1
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    Some italics questions

    I have a few quick questions about using italics in fiction

    Often, writers will use italics when a character is thinking to themselves. While technically not correct, it makes the transition between thoughts and action a little easier to distinguish. I myself do this.

    Authors will also usually italicize words in a foreign language. My story has a made up language, so this comes up very often.

    I have a third use that I'm not sure about. Chapters in my book are divided by short excerpts from fake texts (Ex. an excerpt from a book written later on the action currently happening) It feels like these should be in italics, but I think I'm already overusing them.

    Anyway, my question is: What happens when these uses overlap? For example, if a character thinks a word in a foreign language? My first instinct is that the italics should cancel out.

    I can't believe that chorpin thought this was a good idea! Grae thought furiously.

    Tarrak! Veiss thought to herself. How could this get any worse?

    Just wondering what the general thoughts are here.

    (Side question: Are interrobangs acceptable in fiction, or is that too informal?!)

    Edit: Apparently, quotes on this site are in italics by default
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    Back when the typewriter was the most high-tech tool we could use for writing, we used to underline titles of long works (such as full-length books, plays, operas, movies, etc.) as well as words we wanted to emphasize. The underlining was supposedly a cue to the printer to set the word or words in italics.

    With the advent of the word processors and the pc, we have a wider array of font styles and forms, and we can choose the italics options. You are correct that when we post a quote on the LitNet, the font automatically goes to italics. Don't know how to differentiate book titles and emphasized words within the quote, unless we go back to underlining or putting the words in boldface.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AuntShecky View Post
    Back when the typewriter was the most high-tech tool we could use for writing, we used to underline titles of long works (such as full-length books, plays, operas, movies, etc.) as well as words we wanted to emphasize. The underlining was supposedly a cue to the printer to set the word or words in italics.

    With the advent of the word processors and the pc, we have a wider array of font styles and forms, and we can choose the italics options. You are correct that when we post a quote on the LitNet, the font automatically goes to italics. Don't know how to differentiate book titles and emphasized words within the quote, unless we go back to underlining or putting the words in boldface.
    No offense intended, but that was incredibly unhelpful. Interesting, but completely unhelpful.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hwo Thumb View Post
    No offense intended, but that was incredibly unhelpful. Interesting, but completely unhelpful.
    Well "unhelpful" or not, the two uses of the italics I mentioned, as well as the one aboaut foreign words and phrases which you mentioned, are generally the only places where italics are appropriate. The names of ships and other water-going vessels can also be italicized.

    You were on to something when you expressed your concern about overdoing italics. That's right --the whole point of italics is to set certain words apart from the main text. If a large portion of the writing is set in italics, that defeats the purpose.

    It's similiar to using more than one exclamation point, usually by overly-enthusiastic young females -- "Oooh!!! That's awesome!!!" Sometimes even one exclamation point is way too much. (F. Scott Fitzgerald said that using an exclamation point is like laughing at your own jokes.) That would also hold true for the interrogbang, but not every keyboard has that particular key if you want to squeeze the ! and the ? together.

    So when it comes to using italics, I'd say the absolute minimum works best.

    (Hope this reply was more "helpful.")

    Auntie

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    What about if the thought italicized word starts the sentence, like in the second example above? It feels awkward to leave it uninitialized, then interrupt the thought with a speaker tag, and then continue the thought in italics.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hwo Thumb View Post
    Often, writers will use italics when a character is thinking to themselves. While technically not correct, it makes the transition between thoughts and action a little easier to distinguish. I myself do this.
    Pretty much everyone does this, so being an accepted standard, it is indeed correct.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hwo Thumb View Post
    Authors will also usually italicize words in a foreign language. My story has a made up language, so this comes up very often.

    I have a third use that I'm not sure about. Chapters in my book are divided by short excerpts from fake texts (Ex. an excerpt from a book written later on the action currently happening) It feels like these should be in italics, but I think I'm already overusing them.
    Both of these uses are common also. As far as overusing, it's about the content, not the font style. If the italics are correct for your purpose, then you're fine. Do you worry about overusing periods?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hwo Thumb View Post
    Anyway, my question is: What happens when these uses overlap? For example, if a character thinks a word in a foreign language? My first instinct is that the italics should cancel out.

    I can't believe that chorpin thought this was a good idea! Grae thought furiously.

    Tarrak! Veiss thought to herself. How could this get any worse?
    Generally, yes, stacking italics would cancel mathematically. Your examples above look like made-up words rather than foreign words, however.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hwo Thumb View Post
    (Side question: Are interrobangs acceptable in fiction, or is that too informal?!)
    Inside dialogue, maybe. In the text, never. And 2+ exclamation points together in text or dialogue is a prosecutable offense.
    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Mahatma Gandhi

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