Italics – Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em?

BybRrwuIQAAlsHEI love this photo of my granddaughter – with that fiercely determined expression on her face. And a fabulous dress!

278f6053455ece92a29f80580e5b5051ccb0799187a1b7c6f70f233966766280I’ve got a couple of guest posts up today. I’m at Vamp Chix talking about making an unlikable heroine likable.

I’m also over at Geeks in High School (weren’t we all??), talking about my issues with being a compulsive lender of books. They added this meme, which is perfect and made me laugh.

So sadly true!

 One other housekeeping thing: My first newsletter will be out soon. As a very special treat, I plan to include in it the prequel story for my Twelve Kingdoms trilogy: Negotiation. Previously it was only available in this anthology. So, if you haven’t already and you want this free story (!), then sign up to receive the newsletter here or here. Seeing as how it’s taken me FOREVER to get around to doing a newsletter at all, I feel pretty safe promising that I won’t flood your inbox.


Moving on!

We had an amusing conversation on Twitter this morning. One of those things I didn’t expect everyone to feel so passionate about. On one of my author loops, a guy asked about setting off messages from an AI (Artificial Intelligence) in orbit. (See? Writers have the best conversations!) One gal said please, please, please don’t use italics. I said, why the hell not? Italics would be my first suggestion. A BUNCH of people chimed in after that with variations of “Duh, Jeffe – everyone knows that readers hate italics and skim or skip them entirely.”

Um… really?

Because I had never hear this assertion before. (See what I did there?) Also, I’m tremendously suspicious of any “rule” that starts with “everyone knows.” Usually that’s a shortcut for saying “I assume this is true, but I’ve never examined the foundation for this assumption.” Just recall that at one point everyone knew the world was flat. Because obviously.

I also, because today is clearly the Day of Spurious Assertions, just saw an article that said there are no naturally occurring blue foods.


So, I did what one does in these circumstances – or, at least, what I do – and took it to Twitter. The  ensuing conversation is quite long. The results of my extremely biased, very small and earnestly opinionated sample showed that readers, I’m pretty sure every one who replied, said some version of “um, what??” Just as I did. No one expressed hatred of italics. You know who did?

The editors.

 Yeah, at least four editor types said they don’t like italics and readers will skim.

Interesting, huh?

So! Other opinions on this?? Is it a real thing or an editor/font-fanatic thing?

10 Replies to “Italics – Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em?”

  1. I do not mind and do not skim italics. This is likely a result of early training. Mercedes Lackey used italics to indicate Mindspeech in all the Herald books. These were among my first adult reads and I thought it was clever. Still do really. Anyone can make up language, but it takes real gumption to make up punctuation.

    1. Yes! Mercedes does that and, in fact, that’s pretty standard formatting to denote telepathic or other unvoiced speech. That’s part of why I like it for messages from an AI. They count as “vocalizations” of a kind, but not necessarily spoken aloud.

  2. I have no issues with italics. Yeah, editors seem to have an issue with them (I bet they made up that excuse that readers skim them, too). Probably because it used to cause havoc with typesetting. But that shouldn’t be an issue any longer.

    Heck, the only thing I tend to skim in a book is excessive description. If I don’t skim, I’ll fall asleep! 🙂

    1. That’s a really interesting point, Stacy. I find a lot of people who are stringent about fonts and font “rules” trace back many of their ideas to typesetting. I could absolutely see that becoming a sort of editorial urban myth.

  3. I also vote on the readers’ side. Italics are fine and I do not skip them. Quite the opposite. If there’s a block of text that I am skimming, I will totally stop and pick out the bits which are in italics.

  4. A bit late to the part here, but I publish/write/edit a monthly magazine and absolutely love italics regardless of how much pushback I get; I am tenacious, if nothing else! They’re the best for expressing voice inflection of interview subjects, and they bring emotion to the mix. For any with an aversion to them, there’s either an ulterior motive, or a love affair with the bland going on!

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