?

How do you feel about a writer using italics to designate first person thoughts?

  1. I like it, italics can add clarity.

    12 vote(s)
    30.8%
  2. I don't like it, &/or they shouldn't be used.

    18 vote(s)
    46.2%
  3. I'm neutral about them.

    5 vote(s)
    12.8%
  4. I don't care about this controversy.

    4 vote(s)
    10.3%
  1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Survey of forum members' REACTION to using italics for first person thoughts

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by GingerCoffee, Mar 28, 2013.

    This is a poll of preference when seeing italics used for internal thought and I don't wish to argue the correctness or incorrectness of using italics for first person thoughts in this thread. The discussion (argument) can be found here.

    Regardless of whether or not italics should be used to indicate internal thoughts, the use is widespread, as are the opinions. So I want to survey the forum members for their reaction when they see italics used this way in a piece.


    I've decided I do like them, they do add clarity, but I'm also not opposed to leaving them out if a publisher is going to care. So I voted, I like them, but it doesn't mean I am overly invested in using them.
     
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    voted!
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    What bothers me about this issue, is that I always question: Do readers actually give a damn?

    Does your average reader pick up a book and go: "Italics for thoughts? Damn it, another book I can't read!" then they put your book back on the shelf, shaking their heads at the use of italics.

    One could probably do without them but if someone want so to use them for clarity and the publisher agrees, then they are free to do that. No, I do not respect them less as a writer either.

    My personal opinion.
     
  4. Jared Carter
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    Jared Carter Member

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    I personally like to use italics to highlight words representing thoughts. Its been done in many published (not to mention bestselling) works and I don't see why some people think its wrong. I would think its one of those choices that comes down to your preferences.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I have to ask. What do you hope to accomplish with this poll? The results will only tell you whether readers like or dislike italics and not whether agents/publishers do (which I would say is more important).

    For the record, I'm neutral about italics. I've seen them used for emphasis, book titles, etc. and also for thoughts. I've also seen some unorthodox uses, such as in The Sound and the Fury, where italics are used to indicate significant time shifts for Benjy's section. (An interesting side note: Faulkner originally wanted to use colored ink to denote the different time periods for Benjy's section. Because it wasn't possible at the time, the publisher used italics instead. There was a recent edition released in which 14 different colors were used in an effort to stay true to Faulkner's original vision of how the novel should be presented.)
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'll let more people respond before I answer this, but I do have a purpose in mind.
     
  7. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    I used to use them... then, after seeing what people had to say, not only here but from other sources as well, I decided that I didn't really need to and that I thought that they were kind of a crutch. There was no good reason that I could see that I couldn't express the same things without the italics. I don't think that anyone who uses them is in the wrong, they're far to common in literature to make any kind of solid argument against their, at least, intended use (apparently, what publishers do is anyone's guess on the subject.)

    The only thing that bothers me about this whole debate, and why I've stopped participating in the weekly discussion on whether it's a good idea or not, is that the opinions are so strong and pointed--and the way they're expressed often so condescending and arrogant--that it seems to me like it's a whole lot of fuss over nothing. It's a stylistic decision, that while many might shun it, it's been used to great effect in a lot of books that I've enjoyed reading.

    My personal preference has nothing to do with how anyone else should write. No matter how much any of us try and convince anyone else not to use italics, I think that it's something that each individual writer has to decide for themselves. Personal style should not be dictated by standards... James Joyce would have been screwed if that were the case.

    So, I guess what I'm saying is, use them, or don't. It's up to you, but be prepared for the consequences of whichever path you choose!
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I find italics distracting in a YA novel because they have the tendency to have a LOT of internal dialogue, all in italics of course, and they're scattered all over the place. And then lots more italics in speech too for emphasis. Then I just get annoyed.

    But sometimes, the odd sentence here or there, I think italics can be good.

    For myself, I don't like to use italics. I actually prefer without - it flows much better in my opinion.

    Therefore I voted that I'm neutral. Overuse is a no-no, but I don't mind the odd one here and there, but my preference is without.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My reaction is, "Thought italics. Eew." I don't put it down immediately, but it's certainly not a positive point. My reaction is similar to my reaction to an opening paragraph that talks about the heroine's rippling silken hair or the hero's similarly rippling muscles, or includes the word "smirk" or "feisty."
     
  10. Terralala
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    Terralala Member

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    After reading the other thread I went to look through my books to see if I had any that used italics because I hadn't remembered reading a book written in that style before. What I realized is that one of my favorite YA books uses them and at the time I honestly hadn't realized. I love the book because of the story but I found the writing to be confusing often forcing me to re read huge paragraphs, at the time I assumes I was having a hard time reading it because I read the bulk of the book when I was tired but looking at it now italics in large chunks really are hard on the eyes.
     
  11. lettuce head
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    lettuce head Active Member

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    I don't like them but more power to those that do.
     
  12. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Yep...and they are not necessary: the readers automatically knows the difference between internal dialogue and straight forward narration.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as a writer i would never use them for thoughts in any pov...

    as a professional editor, i would not let it pass...

    as a writing mentor/tutor, i teach my mentees/tutees/clients how to let readers know when a character is thinking, without resorting to fancy fontery...
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you circulated a poll around 1960 about whether of not adults should smoke, you'd probably receive an overwhelming response in favor of the popular custom. That doesn't mean the answer is any good. The same poll to a sampling of doctors in the same time period would have a different outcome.

    Even now, if you choose your population carefully, you could come up with a majority in favor af smoking.

    Do you think a show of hands will make a bad idea into a good one?
     
  15. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Or the way this topic has turned out... filonious fontery :D
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Your analogy is a false one and the answer to your question is, that's not the point of the thread. I will explain the point when it appears the poll has run its course. I don't want to affect the decisions.
     
  17. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    So Ginger, is it time to explain the point of this thread? I'm curious.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!
     
  19. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    It's ran its course.
     
  20. GingerCoffee
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    The point of the poll was simply to look at the preferences of a small non-random sample of readers when seeing italics for thoughts. A number of people in the discussion thread said they were bothered when seeing the italics. I was curious how pervasive that was. I did not see a substantive reason why people were calling the convention, lazy, sloppy, a crutch, resorting to fancy fontery, poor writing, confusing, and so on. I see italics no different qualitatively from quotation marks for dialogue.

    Is it lazy or sloppy to identify spoken dialogue? So why is it lazy or sloppy to identify inner dialogue? There's just zero logic there I can see. If you use quotations for inner dialogue, that clearly confuses spoken and inner. Sure, it's possible not to put any identifiers on inner dialoge and hope it's clear to the reader which is narration and which is thought. But honestly, if that's the argument, why not strive to make spoken dialogue clear without quotation marks?

    It's makes choice of using italics for thoughts more opinion, like my opinion that I don't like Harlequin Romances. If I asked this same poll about someone using very poor grammar, most of us would be of the same opinion, it's less enjoyable to read. But given half the respondents are not bothered by italics for thought, then the fact the other half are bothered makes it much more likely to be just a personal preference and given no other logical rationale for what seems like an arbitrary convention, not a substantive one.

    So this poll was strictly about opinion on seeing thoughts in italics, do they annoy you or not? The discussion about the acceptability of the convention continues here, where I've added more sources of fiction style guides that tell the writer to use italics to identify inner dialogue. Two of the sources are from professors who teach writing at U.S. universities including Harvard and have published novels as well as writer's style guides.
     
  21. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Actually, you'll find that (nearly) half are not in favor. Only about 38/39% either like or don't mind them. However, as part of the 12 percent that said "I don't care about this issue," I can honestly say that there are a percent of us that are selecting that answer as a way of saying "This is being taken way far beyond where it needs to be, and this could have all been left to the single thread that it was already in." So...yeah...
     
  22. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Of course. It's not like a forum opinion poll would ever pass a methodology review.

    Out of curiosity though, is that "don't care" directed equally at those who do and those who don't favor their use? It seems to me people who've expressed an opinion similar to yours tend to think the person stirring the pot (me) is making a big deal while the people insisting "italics for thoughts is wrong" are not. Perhaps a tad of persecution complex is coloring my world on this matter.
     
  23. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    It's a general statement of me being tired of this issue in general. Now, your answers would have been different if you hadn't specifically developed answers so that you could say "See? Only x% of people have a problem with it; the rest don't mind!" If, instead, you'd questioned "Do you, as a writer, use italics to represent thought in your stories?" and done a simple "Yes" and "No" answer, your results may have been highly different, as those that don't mind do not necessarily use them themselves.
     
  24. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    But I wasn't trying to find out anything about who uses them. That is thoroughly covered in the main discussion thread. I wanted to know who was bothered or irritated seeing them in something they were reading.

    You talk about making too big a deal out of the issue, that's how I feel when people say it's a big deal to them when they see italics for thought used in a novel or story. I don't understand how it can be a big deal to anyone. Of all things, this one seems logical, commonly in use, acceptable by the standards of many experts and the idea there is something irritating about seeing thoughts in italics is completely baffling to me.


    As for the poll results, they are there for anyone to draw whatever conclusions they choose to draw about them. The results say to me, about half the respondents don't like seeing italics used and half like them or don't care.
     
  25. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    If you want a better poll that would actually carry some weight, I'd suggest you ask, "How many of you who have been published used or didn't use italics for first person thoughts in your manuscripts."

    That would be a greater help than asking how many people like them, or are bothered by them.
     

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