How to use Italics in your writing – #AtoZchanllenge

As a writer, sometimes you want to emphasize something. That is where italics come into play. Italic is a type of print where the letters slope to the right.

Funky capital I

Funky capital I

(Yes, today on the A to Z challenge, it is the letter I. I decided to go with something a little more unusual and talk about italics which I used quite a bit in my trilogy.)

In my The Elemental series, there are two species (dragons and STACs) that speak telepathically. In order to differentiate between spoken words and telepathic communication, I had the latter written in italics. I even went a step further and put quotation marks around any human’s speech that was spoken telepathically. I hoped this made it easier for readers to understand who was speaking during a conversation and how.

Sample conversation from Summoned – Lina is a human and Tosh is a STAC:

Lina wandered over to the remains of another traveler’s fire, knowing Val watched her. She poked at the ashes with her foot. A few of the ashes floated up toward her.

Lina? Tosh said, hesitantly.

She sat down, drawing her knees up to her chest. “I don’t want to talk, Tosh.”

He curled up beside her and began to purr softly.

Another instance in which I used italics was whenever there was a dream sequence. I had one at the beginning of my book and wanted the reader to know that this was not really happening so I specifically mentioned the dream and then put the dream sequence in italics.

Example of opening dream sequence from Summoned:

The young woman tossed in her bed, muttering softly. She rolled over, her long honey-colored hair covering her pale face. Her fingers dug into the mattress. She shook her head as she sank deeper into the dream.

The yellow light cut through the dark. Her eyes stayed focused on it as it flickered before her like a hundred candles dancing in a soft summer breeze, growing brighter as she neared. As she walked, her hands reached out, touching the smooth, cold stone wall. That alone should have warned Lina something was not right. Even as her mind called out that this was all wrong, she continued down the hall toward the light and toward whatever was calling her.

These are just two of the situations in which italics can come into play in my novels. Below are the more common uses of italics.

1.)    Emphasis or to show contrast –

He managed to eat ten cookies. (Emphasis on the number)

He managed to eat not nine, but ten cookies. (Shows contrast)

The key note here is that you don’t want to overuse italics for this purpose or it will lose its effectiveness.

2.)    Titles of books, albums, movies, plays or periodicals –

Summoned was the first book I wrote.

Short poems and essays are not italicized but set off with quotation marks.

3.)    The names of ships, planes, trains and automobiles.

The Queen Mary sails tomorrow.

4.)    Scientific names of plants and animals.

The name for the human species is homo sapiens.

5.)    Foreign words or phrases –

I got the weirdest feeling of déjà vu.

6.)    Sometimes in a novel it is used to indicate a character’s thought process.

This can’t be true, Sally thought.

If something that normally is italicized is mentioned in an already italic sentence, then the word reverts back to normal. I think the Scarlet Letter had a chapter about that, thought Mary.

I hope this grammar review has helped someone.


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