I’m interested in italics in novels. Italic writings in novels have a wide variety of feelings, for example surprise, delight, anger, irony, humor, etc. However, consulting reference books, I only find such explanations for italics as “emphasis” or “attention,” which do not always give me important information, especially in order to take in the nuance of the expression and use it in writing in the future.

I’d like to know the meaning of italic ‘loved’ in the following citation, as an “italic collector.”

“But I was patient. I wrote back. I was sympathetic, I was kind. Ginny simply loved me. No one’s ever understood me like you, Tom …. I’m so glad I’ve got this diary to confide in …. It’s like having a friend I can carry around in my pocket….” Harry Potter AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS (p.309, US edition)

The speaker, Tom Riddle, is a villain in this story. He is boasting how well he could win Ginny’s heart by becoming a kind of pen pal with her.

I understand the latter part is italicized because Tom is mimicking Ginny’s comment probably with a scornful feeling. But why is ‘loved’ written in italics? Or, if you were the writer, how would you express the same meaning without italics?

(Why can’t I instinctively catch the italic meaning? – Because my native language depends more on adverbs, particles, or other ways, when expressing such subtle nuances in novels. It is not because I can’t understand human emotions! So, I’d be happy if you could explain it for me as specifically as possible. )

  • I'd appreciate it if someone help me about how to edit. I'm not sure why I made this strange form.
    – user1969
    May 14, 2011 at 7:29
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2 Answers 2


I think the word loved is italicized here for two reasons:

  1. It's a gloating exultation spoken by someone who revels in the idea of the victory that this word represents.

  2. It follows the word "simply"; whenever that word is used it is setting up the word that follows for particular emphasis. It's the verbal equivalent of a pitcher's wind-up in baseball. Think of all the times you've used the "simply" set-up. "I'm simply too tired to help" or "That's simply marvelous" or "That's simply not true" — you are letting the listener know that whatever follows simply is simply too important to be missed, and so you feel obliged to give it a double underscore.

  • That’s exactly what I’d like to know. Actually, I was hoping someone explain also the word ‘simply,’ because I didn’t know also why the writer italicized ‘loved’ when ‘simply’ takes charge of emphasis. Anyway, italics in novels are simply too rich in expression. I’m going to study it more and more. Thank you.
    – user1969
    May 15, 2011 at 9:19

I don't think there is a precise interpretation of italics. The idea of 'emphasis' is as close to their effect as I can get. If you were reading the sentence aloud, you would emphasize that word. Just as we use spoken emphasis to convey a variety of meanings, so do we use italics.

The meaning needs to come from the context, and the interpretation of the reader. Sorry!

ETA: Edited to add more italics!!!

  • 2
    +1 for italicing the emphatic is. Extra points if you italice italics. (italice sounds stupid as verb.) May 14, 2011 at 12:00
  • 2
    That's because the verb form is italicize. May 14, 2011 at 13:09
  • 1
    @John - don't you mean italicise, not italice? May 14, 2011 at 13:09

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