1. Victorian girl
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    Victorian girl New Member

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    Italics for thoughts?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Victorian girl, Aug 1, 2010.

    Hi.

    I use italics when portraying thoughts but not sure if this is appropriate.

    So how do others deal with thoughts to seperate them from ordinary speech, is it using italics?

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    Thanks,

    Michelle xx
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't use italics. Use normal text.
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  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    How you distinguish things in a working manuscript is upto you. My entire novel is based on a character's thoughts so I need to use normal text.

    I was taught by world class historians, when writing history texts to put quotes and other people's ideas in italics. So habit would probably see me put my fictional character's thoughts in italics. Thoughts appear in italics in printed texts, and I personally like to be able to distinguish thoughts from the rest of text.

    My English Usage books differ on whether to put thoughts in italics. So guess its your judgement call as to what works best in your text.
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Supporter Contributor

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    good writers don't have to resort to fancy fontery to let their readers know what someone is thinking...
  5. Loaded-Dice
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    Loaded-Dice New Member

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    Dan Brown & Tom Clancy spring to mind for using italics for thoughts.

    Robert Ludlum does too, but only for repeating with emphasis what someone has already said, for example.

    Eighteen hours! Scofield heard the words clearly over the thunderclaps. Was it so bad? Eighteen hours?
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If by working manuscript, you mean for your eyes only, you are correct. But if you plan to submit the manuscript, you cannot just do whatever you want. There are standards. Some are more rigidly enforced than oters, but there are standards.

    Perhaps, but it also may be their publishers who added the italics.

    In any case, it is incorrect. There are correct uses for italics, and there are incorrect uses. Many writers, especially new ones, think you can use italics like a highlighter pen to decorate anything you wish to stand out. Incorrect.
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  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    Given the men who taught me to use italics are well published and intensively peer reviewed, and were training me for the same I think its something that is evolving rather than incorrect. The English Language evolves or you would be speaking Anglo Saxon and I'd be using Doric or maybe a form of Pictish:).

    My understanding at university was the use of italics was increasing because of increasing use of word processors. Things that would previously be underlined could now be placed in italics.

    Presumably the same is true with our manuscripts which would explain contradictory English Usage books. It also seems to evolve much faster in the UK to the US, probably because language here is so varied. We have lots of colloquialisms, dialects etc that filter down and have an impact on our mainstream language. The Queen is a lot less 'RP' than she was fifty years ago her turn of phrase is differnt. The US doesn't vary is language over just a few miles like we do in the UK it changes more slowly and over greater distances.

    yes I meant working manuscript, I use different standards for myself. I use yellow highlighter that won't be going off, but helps me in my working.
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your understanding is correct, but incomplete.

    The standard for manuscripts is that whatever is underlined is to be rendered in italics. That does not alter what is acceptable to be rendered in italics. Underlining is used because the standard for manuscripts was designed for typewriters, which generally cannot render italics. The standard meaning remains.

    Proper uses for italics include indicating stress on a word that would not ordinarily receive the stress in a sentence; foreign words and phrases such as ipso facto; and titles of books, movies, magazines, paintings, etc, like Mother by Whistler. It does not include decorating a passage to make it stand out as different. It does not include unspoken dialogue.

    It is not duct tape to fix weak writing.
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  9. Unit7
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    Unit7 New Member Contributor

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    All you need to do is add something like 'she thought' or 'she wondered'

    Though I do have a question. Would it be necessary for one to add such tags to thoughts? I have found that I sometimes skip over them and instead just leave it as 'I wonder what I did wrong this time.' and continue on. I tend to add lots of thoughts like that or well I think I do. Not sure really. But I was wondering if I should just always just add the small tag along with it.

    I ask in here mostly because it is discussing proper thought format.
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It depends on the context. If your narration is in third person limited, a sentence in first person will almost certainly be literal thoughts. A tag may be advisable for clarity, but it may not be necessary, especially if a recent tag makes it clear the character's thoughts are interleaved with the narration.

    Even if the thoughts are not in first person, it may be clear in context that they are literal thoughts.

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  11. Unit7
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    Unit7 New Member Contributor

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    Alright thanks. I will try and make sure its not confusing and easy to follow.
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Senior Member Contributor

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    Although writers (or their editors) do use italics in novels for a character's thoughts, this is really not at all necessary when the writing is properly paragraphed, context is clear etc. I don't see why writers would chose to do it, since as Cog says, it is not the standard use of italics. Using italics for thoughts does tend to be the resort of a weaker writer or a bit gimmicky.

    I'm also a trained social historian and I have to say that we were never told to use italics for quotes or thoughts. We used italics only in the normal standard way, and normally in history text books this is how they are used. In autobiographies I've seen italics used sometimes, often by a new writer.

    A change appears to be coming in, regarding the 'underlining to show italics' rule on a manuscript. Several times recently I've seen agents or publishers state they prefer actual italics instead of the traditional underlining for submissions.

    Italics really are quite hard and irritating to read en masse. It certainly puts me off a novel if I open it to find two pages of a prologue in italics.
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've been of the "what's the big deal?" position regarding nonstandard use of italics. I've just become a purist.

    This is because I'm reading a murder mystery that uses italics for phone conversations that are happening away from the main action, and I'm finding this intensely annoying.

    The italic sections are just conversation, with no action or description whatsoever, not even dialogue tags - I guess we're supposed to think of ourselves as eavesdropping on the phone call. They're inserted right in the middle of the main action, with no transition or explanation. This all feels very self-consciously coy.

    I suspect that if the option of misusing italics hadn't been available, these conversations would be depicted in a way that didn't drive me crazy.

    ChickenFreak
  14. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Nearly in every book I've read, the author has used italics for his character's thoughts. I don't see why it's wrong. Unless grammar has changed recently.

    (I think it's a good touch. It definitely separates the spoken dialogue from inner dialogue).
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Grammar has not changed in that regard. It has never been correct to use italics for unspoken dialogue. Yes, some writers do it anyway and get away with it. In other cases the authors do it right but publishers stick it in.

    Most writers and publishers know better. Some know better but do it anyway. Most novels I have in my collection don't italicize literal thoughts, but you don't notice unless you are actually looking for it.

    Absolutely true, and it bears repeating. Italics are harder to read than normal text. They have specific purposes, and should be avoided other than for those purposes.
  16. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Yes, having two full pages of italics to read is not fun. I agree. But if people shouldn't use italics, how come a few books have fallen through the cracks?
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Lack of education, a slipshod approach to quality, a don't-care attitude, unclear writing that needs a crutch - you name it.
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  18. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Not the author himself. The editors and publishers. They are the ones who have let some books through with this grammar typo.
  19. BlueWolf
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    BlueWolf Banned

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    I use regular script, as in - Is that me he is talking about, he wondered.
  20. Victorian girl
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    Victorian girl New Member

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    Thanks very much for your replies. Mine is a bit of a tough one because what I am writing are not thoughts as such but come through as thoughts in one way. My protagonist is a medium and recieves voices which are portrayed on the page through the mediums mind. So, a complicated one, which I should have mentioned in the first place.

    Of course that isn`t all there is and 90% of the novel is written as normal with normal every day speech between living characters. The mediums messages just add that little bit of information that she is genuinely in contact with spirit, and they move the story along to a certain extent with the messages she recieves.

    Thanks again. I am still scratching my head with this one because my problem isn`t a straight forward one but you have still helped to clarify about using italics and general thoughts.

    xx
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If it is not your character's own thoughts, then it should be formatted as dialogue. It doesn't matter whether it is face to face, by telephone, radio, telegraph, implanted transciever, sign language, or the Bad Voices in your head, it's dialogue.
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Supporter Contributor

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    true!

    'voices' that a medium [or anyone else] 'hears' even if only in their head, are still dialog and not thoughts... and must be written as dialog...
  23. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist New Member Contributor

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    Hmmm...

    See, I may be wrong, but when I write, I sometimes do use italics for thoughts. If it's just a thought, like Cog's example where a person thought something and then spoke aloud, I don't. However, if it's something like a telepath reading someone's mind (you know, for a hypothetical example...cause I definitely haven't written a bunch of X-Men fanfics or anything;)), I do use italics. It seems clearer that way.
  24. Movie_Pat
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    Movie_Pat New Member

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    I don't think it is necessary to be so dogmatic when it comes to punctuation. Context is everything. For example in Child 44, Tom Rob Smith uses italics to express dialogue. This isn’t something that would be considered grammatically correct, but he chose to do this because the dialogue would have been originally said in Russian, and he felt it would be disingenuous to put the dialogue in actual quotation marks.

    So what I’m basically saying is that as a writer it is completely up to you. Just know that the more you stray from publishers’ standards, the less forgiving they will be about other elements of your writing. If you chose to deviate from grammatical rules, be sure that you have a damn good reason for doing so.
  25. Victorian girl
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    Victorian girl New Member

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    Ok. thanks for that.

    xx
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