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Graeme

Emphasis in dialogue

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There are times when the way someone says something can affect the meaning. A friend of mine who did some acting once gave me a phrase which has quite different meanings, depending on which word the emphasis was placed on:

I love your red sweater: implying someone else doesn't.

I love your red sweater: making it sound like a major fashion statement.

I love your red sweater: implying that there is someone else's that I don't love.

I love your red sweater: implying that I am not as keen on some of your other coloured sweaters.

I love your red sweater: implying you have articles of red clothing that I don't love.

I have been told to use italics to indicate this emphasis. Naturally, it should be used sparingly, as many times people don't place a lot of emphasis in their spoken speech -- at least to the degree where it can make a difference.

Any comments?

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Definitely worth doing - the written word can often be entirely lacking in tone, so anything which lends it some of the subtlety of the spoken word is an improvement.

Interestingly, another area I'm active in - comic books - has done this for a long time, although due to the historic limitations of the medium (handwritten text) the tradition there is to use bold for emphasis, rather than italic.

Regards,

Pete

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Guest rusticmonk86

I forgot all about italicised, underlined and emboldened text.

So I devoted most of chapter 26 to it. Tell me what you think, Aussie. :)

Umm . . . it'll show up in three weeks. But I just wanted to let you know a head of time. If you want, I can send you the advanced copy.

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I forgot all about italicised, underlined and emboldened text.

So I devoted most of chapter 26 to it. Tell me what you think, Aussie. :)

Umm . . . it'll show up in three weeks. But I just wanted to let you know a head of time. If you want, I can send you the advanced copy.

I'll start by saying that I haven't read the rest of the story, so I read chapter 26 standalone, not in any context.

Having said that, it was remarkably clear what was going on. I think a lot of that had to do with the basic writing and not the emphasis added by the formatting, though.

The underlining looked a little odd, but I thought the rest really added to the impact. For example, the "All over.... All over." part -- I could feel the emphasis and bitterness that the repetition was imparting.

I wondered about some of the emphasis. For example, why the emphasis on "thick" in "a thick, white, spray-painted..."? However, as I haven't read the rest of the story, the answer may be obvious. I'll find out when I get around to reading the whole thing....

My opinion only, of course.

Well done!

Graeme

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I have been told to use italics to indicate this emphasis. Naturally, it should be used sparingly, as many times people don't place a lot of emphasis in their spoken speech -- at least to the degree where it can make a difference.

I think what you said at the very beginning of this thread is the most important comment. There's a bad tendency to overuse italics and other typographic elements in writing, and all the books on writing that I've read have stressed that "less is more."

That having been said, I use italics for about four different things:

1) to clear up any ambiguity in dialog (as infrequently as possible): "She told me there was no there there."

2) for internal thoughts or unspoken dialog: That's odd, I thought. He's not wearing any pants.

3) for titles of books, movies, or TV shows: I put down my paperback of Hound of the Baskervilles and raced downstairs.

and 4) for the (rare) foreign phrase stirred into the dialog: "Yeah," I mused. "He caught us in flagrante delicto. We couldn't get our clothes on fast enough."

Beyond that, I think using italics or bold starts looking too much like a "hey! notice me!" thing.

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