Okay here's the thing. After a tough verbal fight with my friend, I concluded that I will post this question here and get some concrete answers.

According to what I feel, italicized words are used

  • For internal monologues

    "And what about her cousin? Mary?"

    I shook my head. "No... No contact with her too." Except sometimes getting slapped by her for free.

  • For stressing on certain words

    "As far as I know, I am right."

    "No. You were right."

But is this valid?

I saw her look towards me as I entered the office, "It was him." I turned around to see who she was pointing at. But there was no one. She was not looking looking towards me.She was looking at me.

The argument that my friend gives is that I should not use the italicized words in sentences because it looks rude to read. But I say why can't I if I want the tone at that very word to be emphasized? He says I should use single inverted commas instead. But I use them for my dialogues within dialogues.

Please help. I am really confused.

  • 2
    Italics look "rude"? That's just plain wrong; quotation marks are for citations and dialog. Using them for emphasis is incorrect. Your usage here is correct and proper. Jun 18 '12 at 14:16
  • 1
    Italics are rude? You've got to be kidding me!
    – J.R.
    Jun 19 '12 at 1:32

I've read a lot of novels in my life and I cannot remember one, that uses bold for emphasizing. But maybe that's just my memory problem. I prefer italic, but honestly, that is a matter of taste and totally up to the writer.

I prefer italic words, because they stand out without shouting at the reader. One bold word on a page is attracting the eye. It's almost like the North Pole to a compass needle.

Italic instead stands out while you read it and not during all the time your eye look at the page. (Aren't you attracted to the "bold" above from the very beginning and still are?)

Now, using quotation marks (single, double, whatever) could be problematic. They are used for citing, for dialogues, for emphasizing and to mark irony or obscene meanings of some words (like "cock"). Now, which one are you using and how do you tell it your readers?

All in all, don't have doubts, you are the writer, it's your story and if your friend has a problem with your markup, tell him/her to write his/her own story.

  • 2
    I say you've said pretty much everything I would say. Italics really do stand out without being in your face about it. It just flows better.
    – Fox Cutter
    Jun 18 '12 at 18:31
  • Well.. he has written his own story so I can't ask him to.. hahaha! But you gave an Amazing example there! And yes, To me, bold words seems like an interruption. Thanks for the answer! Jun 18 '12 at 21:50

...it looks rude? I have never heard of italics being called "rude." Your friend is full of it.

Both your examples are perfect exactly as they are. The first one is a brief interior monologue, set off by formatting. The second uses italics for emphasis.

Single quotes (or single inverted commas) are, as you correctly stated, used for nested quoted material (dialogues within dialogues). Quotes can be used to refer to something mockingly, or to indicate that something has an inferior, parody, or so-called status:

We went down the "easy" road, which was just as steep and strewn with boulders as the "hard" road.

Norrington sneered, "When does 'Captain' Sparrow arrive?"

You will note the second example does not have the same meaning as this:

Norrington sneered, "When does Captain Sparrow arrive?"

In the first one, Norrington's implication is that Sparrow has taken the title of Captain without earning it. In the second, Sparrow is legitimately captain, but Norrington doesn't want to acknowledge it and probably called him "Mister" in the previous exchange and was corrected.

Do not make the common mistake of thinking that quotes just mean emphasis. For example:

Big Sale on "Sneakers" Today!

is completely and entirely WRONG. The only possible way that statement is correct if if "Sneakers" refers to something which is actually not a shoe but has the brand name of Sneakers (for example, if it were a bookstore selling a series of books with titles like Sneaker of the House, Sneaker in the Back, Sneaker with Sally in the Alley, and so on).

  • So my use of italicized words in the middle of descriptive sentences is correct. Right? Jun 18 '12 at 22:01
  • Right. It is absolutely correct. Jun 18 '12 at 23:29
  • Now the only open question is, why you use all-uppercase words for emphasizing ;-) Jun 21 '12 at 9:07

There is no harm in using italic but if you want to specifically emphasize on any word making it bold would have a better impact. I feel using italics makes it a little informal.

  • Since signature and tag lines are not allowed here, I removed the extraneous link. Carol, please feel free to link to your own site - when it's relevant to the answer. Jun 18 '12 at 14:12
  • If anything, italics look more refined than bold words, at least in fiction. In business writing, using bold often is fairly common. Jun 18 '12 at 14:14

In most writing, the use for internal monologues is valid, but bold, as per @CarolHardin, is more common for emphasis.In most typefaces, I think bold is clearer. Italic just indicates that this is a different voice.

  • Im starting to have serious doubts on my voice now. Jun 18 '12 at 12:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.