1. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    Italics and exclamations

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by marcusl, Aug 1, 2009.

    I read in a writing guidebook that many agents/editors frown upon italics and exclamation marks. Is this true? Perhaps they're disliked because some writers overuse them?

    It'd be great if an experienced author could cleared this issue. Thank you very much.
     
  2. essential life
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    essential life Member

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    I too was wondering how permissible it is to use italics to put stresses on certain words that a character is saying.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    There's already at least one thread that has the whole italics debate being fought out (though there isn't much fighting, its more of a "this is right, this is wrong" sorta thing).

    As for exclamation marks, I'm not a published writer or anything, but I think the reason they should be avoided is that they are generally superfluous as the nature of the dialogue should be obvious through the context. Sometimes they are necessary, but generally its best to leave them out. And when you do use them, make sure its only one, not !!!
     
  4. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Precisely.

    Realistically, you shouldn't need to use exclamation marks much, because the nature of the dialogue should be clear without them. They are often overused by inexperienced writers, who think throwing them at a piece of writing is an easy way to put more action and excitement in.

    Oh, and (in my opinion) the use of exclamation marks in narration is a cardinal sin which should be punished by eternal damnation (living in a library that only stocks the works of Stephanie Meyer and Christopher Paolini).
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Overuse of em phasis cues is always a bad thing. Let the context show the intensity,

    There are punctuation elements that scream "amateur" when overused. Exclamation points and semicolons are the most widely overused.

    Advertisements have particularly hammered us with superfluous exclamation marks. Buy now, while supplies last! New and Improved! Free!!!!!

    Give it a rest, guys.

    Italics are properly used to indicate a foreign word or phrase embedded in English dialogue or narrative, es verdad. Italics are also proper to use to indicate that a word or phrase receives an unexpected emphasis in a sentence, but should be used very sparingly. I would give an example, but one doesn't come immediately to mind. You shouldn't use italics to place a stronger emphasis on a word the would ordinarily receive the emphasis anyway.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I always seem to come onto these threads directly after Dave has already said what there is to be said.

    But a few more words just to add flavor:

    If you must constantly resort to these "special effects" then you've not told the story well. You've not told the story with your words and now you must literally use visuals to get your point across. Is that the group with which you would like to see you work included?
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    "Hey, hey, hey, I'm talking to you."
     
  8. LivvieLove
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    LivvieLove New Member

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    What about if your character is thinking something, would you use Italics or is this on a different subject...?
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Please do NOT use italics for unspoken dialogue, including literal thoughts. He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!!!
     
  11. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    I wonder what Stephen King would say to both of you.
     
  12. LivvieLove
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    LivvieLove New Member

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    Oh, I see. Thank you for telling me.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why would I care?
     
  14. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    I tend to use italics for stressing words, but also for spoken lines that are sudden. unexpected and from a source the character in the scene cannot immediately identify:

    Bob sighed. "I really don't see how it could get worse then this."
    "Did somebody order a large ham?" a burly voice shouted behind him.

    I also tend to use italics for thoughts and dream sequences.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is incorrect, and unnecessary as well. You already indicated that it was shouted.
    Neither is a correct use of italics.
     
  16. ArielleCeleste
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    ArielleCeleste New Member

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    I've read many books where the dream sequences and thoughts are in italics, Cogito. And I'm not talking about teenage romance novels or second-rate published books. No example come to mind (just my luck). Also, when I read sometimes the context is not clear enough to show the emotion of a sentence, especially if the word is not italicized or there is no exclamation point.

    I said, I don't want the book.

    is way different than

    I said, I don't want the book!
    Although it's not correct usage, you can easily tell that there is a total difference in the way the sentence is being said. But then again I'm no English teacher. It just makes more sense to me that way. Just my opinion don't kill me! *hides*
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Emphasising a word is a valid use of italics. Emphasising an entire sentence is not. As for what you see in books, typesetting decisions by the publishers is not the same as what is correct usage.

    Italicizing thoughts is an increasingly common misuse of italics, but it is indeed a misuse.
     
  18. ArielleCeleste
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    ArielleCeleste New Member

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    No, I completely understand that italicizing a whole sentence is bad. I'm just used to seeing thoughts italicized. I associate this formatting with the word "thought" immediately. If a thought isn't italicized it throws me all out of whack. I myself have never heard this rule, but eh. Que sera, sera.
     
  19. Faith*Hope*Love
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    Faith*Hope*Love Banned

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    Personally I think that ittalics is very handy. I love using it, and think that without it the reader wouldn't get the full concept of the personality of your character.

    As for '!' I don't use them much, escept when needed in dialogue. Rarely do I use them when my characters are thinking to themselves.
     
  20. LivvieLove
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    LivvieLove New Member

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    "I've read many books where the dream sequences and thoughts are in italics, Cogito. And I'm not talking about teenage romance novels or second-rate published books."
    (Sorry for using random " " points but I'm not sure how to use the little quote boxy thing yet... oh well)

    I agree, I've seen it too, which is what I use in my writing, it gives it sorta a flow that just tells you in your mind that they are thinking something. While yes it is in general English that Italics should not be used there, this is not like math where the rules are strict, with English, they are a bit flexable. So it really depends on how you write, thats my opinion at least.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Using italics to signify thought is lazy writing, though. If your writing makes it clear that a passage is literal thought without resorting to typographic gimmicks, your writing will be that much better.
     
  22. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've just perused a few books of mine to see how italics & exclamations marks were used.

    Twilight by S. Meyer - Italics are only used for emphasis; never used for internal monologue. Exclamation marks were nowhere to be found--including the Port Angeles scene--until the end of the book where Bella's almost killed.

    Starship Troopers by R. Heinlein - Pretty much the same as Twilight. Italics only used for emphasis and not to denote internal monologue; however, there's a bit more italicizing and use of exclamation marks than in Twilight.

    The Stand by S. King - Ouch! Italics everywhere--internal monologue, for emphasis (and he emphasizes a lot of things). Lots of exclamation marks used too.

    White Night by Jim Butcher - Italics used for emphasis, but very sparingly used. Amount of exclamation marks used seems similar to the amount used in Starship Troopers.
     
  23. LivvieLove
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    LivvieLove New Member

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    That is true, it is quick and easy, but to me, (maybe its JUST me) but whenever I add
    'thought so and so' it feels very wordy. I feel like i would be overusing the word thought, or something like that. Italics make it easier to tell when the thought begins to when it ends. Though I will try it, I will make a short story without the misuse of Italics to try it out and see if it is better when I write that way :)
     
  24. ArielleCeleste
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    ArielleCeleste New Member

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    I agree with LivvieLove.

    And I actually think that "lazy" is a bit harsh.

    I'm not a professional writer and my writing is far from the best. Just because I put my thoughts and dream scenes in italics does not mean that I put any less effort into the writing than any other part of the piece. I think that also applies to others who use italics in their writing.
     
  25. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Marina, I do the same thing, assuming you like to study different authors and how they write.

    I've been studying Lois Bujold lately. Her publisher puts direct thoughts in italics. In a way this does read smoother. That way you don't have to say, he thought.

    From the Curse of Chalion

    This ought to go to that divine of the Temple, with the rest of the dead man’s possessions.Well, I’m not walking it back there tonight, that’s certain. He would return it as soon as he was able.

    Without italics, I suppose it would be best to say he thought.

    This ought to go to that divine of the Temple, with the rest of the dead man's possessions. Well, he thought, I'm not walking it back there tonight, that's certain. He would return it as soon as he was able.

    I think I prefer the italics. Either way, I think if italics are used for direct thoughts, then "he thought," "he wondered," etc should be removed. Otherwise, using italics is useless IMO.
     

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