1. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    Adding emphasis to a word- showing sarcasm

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Artist369, Oct 28, 2014.

    So I've been doing a fair amount of reading of editor's articles and blogs. There is a general consensus that italics should not be used for emphasis unless the sentence doesn't make sense without it.

    I agree with this sentiment. That being said, I also don't think lengthening a word is a good idea either. For instance:

    What's the best way to emphasize the word "right" in this case? Where sarcasm is implied?


    Source
     
  2. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think either using a more clearly sarcastic response or simply trusting the readers' ability to understand basic context would work fine.

    To clarify my meaning of clearer response: I'd use "sure" or "sure it did" instead of "right, " "riiight," or "right." I would pretty much always look to changing the words instead of changing how they are presented.

    Edit: If my opinion helps any, I would easily understand the "right" response [sans emphasis] as sarcastic. I think you could leave it that way and rock on:agreed:.
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Um, I don't really have an answer, just an observation concerning the high-lighting of stress for reasons of typographically showing sarcasm or emphasis.

    Though not in evidence in the example you show because it's a one word example, I often find that the italicized word that's meant to be read with emphasis, vocal or syntactic, is very often not the word that I would have put the stress on in that statement were it to have been mine to say in real life. :wtf:

    I guess I proffer this as my way of saying find a way that isn't typographic, we don't all speak the same way. And aren't the extra I's really just another flavor of italics? Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.
     
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  4. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    "Yeah, right." might work, too.
     
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  5. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    Thanks for the tips. I'll use context and additional words like Okon and Stevesh suggested to communicate the tone of sarcasm more clearly.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I'd use actions, or different words, or the other character's reaction to the sarcastic character's reaction.

    "Why didn't you come?"
    "Something came up."
    A pause. "Right."

    "Why didn't you come?"
    "Something came up."
    He studied her silently.
    "It did!"

    "Why didn't you come?"
    "Something came up."
    "Uh-huh."
    "It did!"
    "Right. Of course it did."
     
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  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You can use actions/beats to suggest the mental reaction:
    "Why didn't you come?"
    "Something came up."
    Mark's eyebrow twitched. "Right."

    You can change the dialogue to more clearly show the skepticism:
    "Why didn't you come?"
    "Something came up."
    "Blonde, brunette, or imaginary?"

    You can establish the context beforehand. Also, trailing off speech indicated with an ellipsis suggests something left unsaid:
    Mark decided to ask anyway. "Why didn't you come?"
    "Something came up."
    "Right..."

    These are not all your options. Be flexible, and be creative.
     
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  8. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Personally, if it's easy to detect I'd just use italics. That's how I like reading them in other books so I just copy that.

    If it requires more than a single word or it isn't obvious, I add a beat or narrative to clear it up.

    It really depends on how you imagine the characters talking.
    In Cogito's example, I wouldn't have assumed sarcasm but that's me. It'd would have been a forlorne sound to me rather than sarcastic.
    Use what works best in your head whether italics, beats, narrative, tags, or ellipses. If it causes confusion, beta readers and editors will point it out.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Italics are not duct tape for weak writing, contrary to popular belief.
     
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  10. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well done!:rofl:
     
  11. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Why weren't you there?"
    "Something came over."
    He stared at her silently, giving no response.
    "It did. I swear," she pleaded.
    "Sure."

    For me, the shorter the answer, the better. A simple "sure" or "right" or even an "okay" would work well. Just keep it kind of snappy. But don't add in a "he said" to it ("Sure," he said). To me, that sounds like someone who is unimpressed and upset.
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do bear in mind that the source you cited seems to just be a random guy who writes a bit. I've never heard of him, and he doesn't have any books at less than 1 million in the Amazon rankings, unless he has a different pseudonym.

    Which doesn't mean he's wrong or doesn't know what he's talking about. But as authorities go... I don't think he is one.

    Your reading of blogs seems a bit more likely to produce good authority, but probably the best authority is reading published books. And I see italics in dialogue pretty often in published books.

    This may come down to the "doesn't make sense without it" exception, of course. There are lots of times when italics add meaning, and and therefore I'd say they're good to use. If they add nothing, of course don't use them.

    That said - I don't think they're particularly good for showing sarcasm.
     
  13. PaulGresham
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    PaulGresham Member

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    "I believe you" he/she said cynically.
     

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