6.11.2006

Format again, cause yanno, obsessing about actual writing is so...yesterday

Dear Miss Snark:

Underline For Italics? Or just italics? Or does it matter?

Writers Market guide books say to Underline in place of italics. Have now been hearing otherwise - or that it doesn't matter - since it is the story that counts.

This is a holdover from the pre-xerox days when retyping manuscripts, let alone correcting them was laborious and expensive.

Now, with a flick of a button you can do all that stuff and more. Thus, I prefer to read manuscipts and pages that use italic for italic and underline for emphasis.

Here's the thing: depending on where I sell this masterpiece of yours, the publisher will have very specific copy guidelines. When you prepare the edited version of the manuscript for the typesetters, you'll follow the publishers' instructions to the letter. Up until that point, I truly don't think it matters that much. HOWEVER, if submission guidelines address the issue, follow them. Always follow the guidelines on an agent's website. If there aren't any, they probably don't care much either.

I just detest underlining cause it's ugly on the page. Same reason I hate 14 point bold too but, honest to dog, 12/10 pt TNR, with correct margins, one side, and anything else I'll overlook.

You can obsess about this but really, I prefer you obsess about your writing.

17 comments:

Writerious said...

Thank you. That relieves one worry. I, too, have read conflicting advice about italics. Most of the "no italics" advice I've seen has come from the realm of science fiction publishers, who, so far as I can see, still prefer manuscripts that look as though they've been done on an old Underwood typewriter (I'm half-tempted to see if there's a slightly blurry version of Courier font that looks like it was made by worn-out typewriter keys just to really make them wax nostalgic). Everyone else seems to have come into the 21st century. Ironic, isn't it?

I.J.Parker said...

There may be different expectations from different publishers. In my case, both of my publishers have been major houses and print publishers (not SF). They want underlining to indicate italics to the type setters. There is no differentiation between italics for titles and foreign words and italics for emphasis.
My agent makes no changes, but passes my mss. directly to editors. Editors may or may not make changes, but these will not involve format. Copy editors deal with format. And mine have always wanted underlining to indicate italics.

Cameron said...

To Miss Snark's alter ego,

No question, just genuine thanks.
You are a gem. Maybe at some point in the future when the need for anonymity has faded someone will put you up for an award for services to the industry.

Anonymous said...

I've stuck to the publishing guides format for my MS for the reasons i.j.parker wrote (not that I have a publisher yet...) to avoid having to keep too many copies in synch with each other.

Just in terms of maintenance, I think it would be a bit of a nightmare to have to go through a manuscript that used italics for thought, for example, and convert it to underlines for the happy day when your agent comes back to you and says, "CONTRACT..but, you have to convert all the italics to underline for the copy editor." I think it would be rather easy to miss a few in a 80K+ MS. Or does the publisher's editor who recommends it have it converted for you?

anon-y-mouse

McKoala said...

Anon-y-mouse, if you're using MS Word you can use find and replace to search for formatting and replace it with different formatting. It's more reliable than my tired eyes.

Zachary Gole said...

anon--Just so you know, in MS Word you can do that automatically with a Find and Replace (instructions may differ somewhat depending on the version of Word):

Click the checkbox that says "Use wildcards"

With the cursor in the "Find what" field, type an asterisk and then select "Font" from the "Format" dropdown, and then "Italic" from the "Font style" dropdown on the "Find Font" popup window. Hit "OK" to close the popup.

With the cursor in the "Replace with" field, type "^&" (without the quotes), and then again select "Font" from the "Format" dropdown. Select "Not Italic" under "Font style", and the thin solid line under "Underline style". Hit "OK" to close the popup.

Now just click on "Replace all", and voilĂ ! All the italics become underlines! No manual messing with them, and no worry about forgetting any!

There are probably ways to do this in other word processors, too.

Chris Mansell said...

Times New Roman! Erk, spit. What about common, elegant Helvetica Neue? Are you really so strict.

Termagant 2 said...

Have a little mercy, chums. The pubs & agents use TNR because it's easy on their eyes. We don't want 'em to go blind BEFORE they get our magnificent stuff, do we?

T2

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the instructions on how to replace all for Italics to underline. I'll have to use that for future novels. I agree about the apearance, but didn't want to mess with it manually.

anon-y-mouse

Anonymous said...

zachary gole, I tried to do the replace, but couldn't figure out what the characters are between the quotes in your reply.

anon-y-mouse

Sheila said...

Zachary -
Ditto anon-y-mouse - its not working for me either - can't read the mysterious character in your post.

I found one agent's site that had the Underline and Courier font instructions for their submissions. Same with one or two publishers. The rest (agents anyways) have no info on formatting.

Anonymous said...

Shiela, I since took a stab and the replacement characters are the up-carat found over the six on a PC keyboard followed by an ampersand. It works--Yay!

anon-y-mouse

Feisty said...

Italics are a copy editor's job. I used to work as a copy editor and the one thing that has stuck with me all these years is this: be consistent. Whatever you do, do it consistently, cleanly, and readably. Leave the rest to your copy editor. Let him/her fancy it up to the current style.

Sheila said...

Anon -y- mouse -

Great! I will try that. One of the computer folks here at work wrote a macro that switched it all.

AstonWest said...

You can also use the find-and-replace method for replacing all those double-spaces (after the end of a sentence) with singles...quite handy.

(Strange, I've never had to use any symbols in Word to change up the italics to underlines, nor check off wildcards...maybe that's in the newer versions? Or maybe I'm missing something important...)

Zachary Gole said...

Yup, the "mysterious characters" are a caret and an ampersand--sorry; the ampersand looks really weird in the font used on this page, apparently.

Alternately, instead of typing "^&" by hand, you can (with the cursor still in the "Replace With" field) select "Find What Text" from the "Special" dropdown, and Word will insert the "^&" there automatically.

(astonwest--There may be a simpler way to do it that I haven't figured out. I was just sharing the way I knew to do it, but I'm not really a Word expert.)

tlc said...

FWIW -- don't bother with the "wild card" nonsense in search and replace. I've gone back and forth with italics & underlines to meet requests/requirements for formatting.

As I recall: Go to Find/Replace. Expand using the "More" option. Click on "Special" choose "any character" in Find. Then click "format"/"Font" and choose whatever you're changing FROM in the 'find' field, and whatever you're changing TO in the replace field.

Should work, at least for Office 2003. I do the same with 'whole words' when I want to change the font to red and bold on my problem child words.

Anyway -- it works for me.