1. lameri
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    lameri Senior Member

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    Quotation marks or italics?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by lameri, Nov 5, 2011.

    What's best to use for a made-up word? I've seen both.
    Some examples:
    1) She was our micro-host at the party. (or "micro-host") (For context: she wasn't the host, but the host made her sit with us at the table to entertain us)
    2) Winter would bring a different kind of busy-ness. (or "busy-ness")
    3) ...where the sea lions repeat their onc-onc song without respite.

    Also, when you use italics for keywords, do you use them always or only the first time the word is used?
    Thanks.
     
  2. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    If it's foreign (or a made up language), italics. If you want to draw attention to it (a la scare quotes), quotes. Usually, though, nothing. If you coin a word, just use it.

    Are you writing a textbook? If not, then why do you have "keywords"?
    (If you are, only the first time)
     
  3. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Arathald nailed it. I guess I'll add to it, though not sure anything else needs saying.

    I'd say use it in roman font because the made-up word is, I assume, familiar with the POV character. But make sure the reader knows what the made-up word represents. I'm sure if you look in fantasy books, there are plenty of made-up words (names of elixirs, species, whatever) you can see for examples. Even sci-fi books have made-up gadgets, but I've never seen a made-up word in italics.

    Generally, italics is used as little as possible, so that the times they are needed stand out. It doesn't help that foreign words that haven't been adopted in English and works (book titles, movie titles, periodical titles) are always in italics, so the made-up word wouldn't appear in italics...unless the character stresses that word, of course.

    And FYI, busyness is a word.
     
  4. lameri
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    lameri Senior Member

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    Thanks for your advice. You both seem to imply that nothing is really needed. But I feel funny writing things that I make up. It's not a science fiction book, so it is mainly English-based modifications, not a new language, like the "micro-host" below or another one: "The two talked on the phone for a very long time in the girliest and silliest way imaginable, just dreaming about the fact..."
    I definitely don't want extra attention, so I'm currently italizicing those words...

    It's not a textbook, but there are some engineering terms that are not common knowledge. I explain them though.

    You're right. I used that spelling because I want to play with "business" and "busyness." The carachter was busy before the winter, and the winter will bring another business. I wasn't sure how to put it, but I know I've seen it in major literary works spelled like that, with a hyphen.
     
  5. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    Okay, firstly, girliest is a perfectly fine word, even if it's not really an official word (for whatever that's worth). Secondly, italicizing it *is* drawing attention to yourself. The only think I can think when you write it like that is that you're stressing the word.


    Explain words all you want. You're still not writing a textbook, so you shouldn't italicize words as if you were. And be careful about overusing terms that your audience won't know. If you do this too much, your novel will start reading like a textbook, anyway.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This confuses me. Italics will draw extra attention to the words, so you seem to be taking actions that are counter to your goal?

    ChickenFreak
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    me, too!... doesn't make sense...
     
  8. lameri
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    lameri Senior Member

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    I was just responding to Arathald's comment:
    So, since I don't want that attention, I won't use quotes. Now, I was trying to figure out whether italics were needed or nothing.

    I was surprised to read that I could write girliest without italics, given that it's not in the dictionary...
     
  9. lameri
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    lameri Senior Member

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    I was just responding to Arathald's comment:
    So, since I don't want that attention, I won't use quotes. Now, I was trying to figure out whether italics were needed or nothing.

    I was surprised to read that I could write girliest without italics, given that it's not in the dictionary...
     
  10. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    AFAIK, a word not being in the dictionary isn't a reason to use italics. And, if it's not in the dictionary, why not use "most girly"?
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, I see. But you're not including the option of "Usually, nothing." That's the option to use if you don't want to draw attention to the word.

    Quotes say, "This is a weird little word, see? I'm wrapping it in quotes so that you know that I know that it's not a standard word."

    Italics say, "This is a foreign word or one that's spoken with emphasis." The reader sees that it's not a foreign word. They try to read the sentence with the word emphasized, and it doesn't make sense. They're confused. That draws much more emphasis to the word.

    So if you must use anything, I'd say use quotes. But using nothing is better.

    I think that you're seeing the use of coined words as a more extreme strategy than it really is. In academic or formal writing, you might need to wrap them in quotes or refrain from using them at all. In fiction, where a variety of narrative voices - formal, informal, using dialects or slang - are all just fine, you don't need to worry about them this much.

    ChickenFreak
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a standard construction from "Girly, adj" which is in my dictionary, though.
     
  13. lameri
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    lameri Senior Member

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    Thank you very much for your advice, very helpful!
     

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