Sunday, August 8, 2010

Italics again

Theresa, was it you that mentioned the problem with Courier and italics? Or someone else?

Anyway, here's a link that states categorically NO UNDERLINING in a manuscript.

And a friend just emailed me asking, and I had to agree that I too am an "italics only" advocate. However, at the RWA conference, someone (maybe not Theresa, maybe yes, but you know, that was probably after several drinks, and ...) said that in Courier, the italics doesn't look much different than the regular font, so it's better in Courier to underline. (Yet another reason not to use Courier. :) Have you guys heard that?

Also, any thoughts here? Would you use italics for some things and not others? To emphasize a word, maybe? Or underline foreign words? Or what?

And what about this Courier thing?



Julie Harrington said...

I loathe Courier. It's too thin and too hard to read, so I think if you do italicize it, it's better to underline it. And it's weird but far as I can remember, guidelines (and I think all the manuscript formatting books I have ever read) have said underline to indicate italics. Only very recently have I begun to see some people say no, just go ahead and use italics. It's very confusing. LOL.


Meghan S. said...

I agree with JT, everything I've read up to this point has said you should underline to indicate italics. Italics in your manuscript = bad (or so I've heard)

Edittorrent said...

Underlining means italics, right? Is that what it's meant to convey?
I've never heard italics are bad in an ms, but a whole lot might be hard to read (like a whole page of italics). My house's stylebook says italics only.

We should try italics in Courier.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Times New Roman gal. I'm afraid I'm also not a fan of Courier.

I've also seen underlining means italics (somewhere) and if that is a hard and fast rule then I'm very bad because I use italics. Although I don't tend to use italics to highlight a word, I'll use italics for conversation between characters who speak telepathically.


Erastes said...

These days I'll always use italics because I'm submitting to a publisher where I know what they want. Most of my publishers anyway - Running Press still want underlining, and do hand written amendments.

I'd always check with a new publisher in advance as to what formatting they require.

Adrian said...

For reading, I prefer a quality variable pitch font. But for composing and editing, a typewriter-like fixed-pitch font is absolutely essential. Courier New is by far the most commonly used fixed-pitch font in use today. It seems quite appropriate to me to use it in a manuscript. Times New Roman and other variable pitch fonts are impossible to accurately mark up on paper.

Courier New does not actually have a true italic variation. Most word processing programs will simulate italic by slanting the text, but that's not very obvious or easy to read. Underlining, as was the tradition with typewritten manuscripts (which are the inspiration for Courier and Courier New) is perfectly appropriate.

Edittorrent said...

I guarantee that I NEVER said anyone should underline in courier. There isn't enough vodka in the world to make me say something so depraved. ;)

Yes, I like courier. And yes, courier's italics are hard to read. Doesn't matter. I still wouldn't advocate for underlining.


green_knight said...

Courier had the advantage of making it easier to guess how long a mss will be - with electronic submission & wordcount, that is no longer as vital.

What gets me is a preference for Times/Times New Roman - it's a bad font for on-screen reading and much less readable than, say, Palatino or Georgia. (Letter shape & kerning are both at fault.)

The other bit I don't understand is why people get worked up about this. It's a matter of seconds to set up a mss exactly as you want it - as long as the writer shows professionalism - so no pink Comic Sans - it shouldn't be something by which a writer is judged. Unless you want people who only ever do exactly what's in your guidelines, and that's your main criterium for whether you want to work with them.

A different submission question:

Many of the characters in my WIP are bilingual in English/Welsh. And they're switching languages freely, which is a plot point/characterisation issue.

How would you indicate this in a submission? I'm hoping that in the book it would be indicated by a different font, but I'm uncertain how to do this in mss format. If it were only a few words or phrases, I wouldn't have a problem, but we're talking whole pages where most of the dialogue - with the exception of a few phrases - is in Welsh.

Right now, which was fine for the much-English-with-some-Welsh bits, but now we're back in Mach and most of the dialogue is like this, even I find it a bit overwhelming.

I don't think I've ever read a novel with fully bilingual protagonists, and would love to see how other writers have handled this.

green_knight said...

Argh. HTML fail.

Right now, they're <talking like this>.

Edittorrent said...

GK, are you going to translate the Welsh?
I'm thinking I read a book where one character speaks some Native American language, and the English translations are done in () right after, but I can't remember the title. Will look for it.

green_knight said...

Both the Welsh and the English are written as English text, but characters switch languages, and I want to indicate that, so you get sentences like

"<Would you like me to be there? As>" She switched to the English, "staff-student coordinatory officer_, I have a right to attend a disciplinary hearing."

That's not so bad. However, I have whole chapters where everybody is talking in Welsh, and prefixing the dialogue over pages with <> gets old soon.

On the other hand, it's important which language they're speaking, both as characterisation and plotpoints.