1. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    Question regarding the use of italics

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by LordKyleOfEarth, Mar 11, 2011.

    In a story which I am working on the narrator uses the scientific names for several creatures. True to the nomenclature of the scientific community, the names are presented in italics. I also, however have a couple of instances where I want to italicize a single word for emphasis.

    The obvious issue is that I am then using italics to denote two different things. Is it kosher in this case, or is there a better way to show the narrator is emphasizing a single word?
     
  2. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not set in stone, but I would suggest that the use of italics to show emphasis tends to be lazy writing, and it would be better to rephrase it to show the emphasis in a different way. Yes, I know that most of us use italics in this forum for emphasis, but that's for convenience. In your story you should look past convenience to maximum effectiveness.

    That said, I don't think there's any rule against using italics for multiple purposes, as long as those purposes are clear, just as there's no problem with using capital letters for the starts of sentences and for proper nouns.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's a common practice to italicize a word here and there for emphasis... but it should be done sparingly...
     
  4. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I personally wouldn't recommend using italics for emphasis on a word in a manuscript. From what I've heard/read/etc., it's generally bad form. If there is italics in a published work, that's the choice of the editor, not necessarily the author. But that's just my opinion.

    You shouldn't have a problem with using italics for different purposes.
     
  5. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not bad form, unless used excessively imo.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Emphasis of a word that would not ordinarily receive emphasis is one of the valid uses of italics.

    For example:
    would ordinarily place or imply a very slight emphasis on the word valid. i.e. the speaker is agreeing with the person who posed the argument. But this:
    shifts the meaning sharply - you now get the impression that the speaker is about to refute the argument.

    As Kyle mentioned, foreign words and phrases (including the Latin names used in taxonomy) are another valid use of italics. A third is the titles of creative works (books, paintings, songs, movies) and of vessels.
     
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  7. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    I think italicizing is a tool to make a point. I use it for foreign words in my novel (ma chérie), plus for emphasis (see example of Cogito). Another example is that an italicized word can visualize the character (thus making it show, not tell). ("Yes, I have a question" >> you can "see" that all others in the room will look at the person who said it, for instance in a situation where people are supposed to have no question, despite the invitation to do so).


    Bottom line is that as long as the use of italics isn't confusing, it can be used for different meanings (imho).
     
  8. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am not hazy on the valid uses for italics, I am wondering if it could come off as problematic to use italics for multiple purposes in the same story. I think I'm okay, but I just wanted to see if anyone had a good reason to avoid doing such a thing.
     
  9. Dandroid
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    Dandroid Senior Member

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    i only use italicsfor other languages...or perhaps for a voice that interjects in the narrative itself....like a person next to the narrator offering their two cents...
     
  10. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Kyle, if the story you're asking about is the one I reviewed, I wouldn't worry about it. I thought your italic use was fine.
     

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