i tal ya, them i-talics, they undo me

I’ve heard that traditionally any italics in a manuscript should be indicated, instead, with an underline. In this modern day and age with computer programs and all, is that still expected. Or, at the very least, does it indicate unprofessionalism on my part if I persist in using italics since it’s the way I hope to read it one day in published form.

A very small point, I know, and, honestly, I’m not obsessing about it. But, in terms of putting your best foot forward . . .

When you query, use italics.

When your book sells, and you are preparing page proofs, the publisher has a style book and they will tell you what form they use. You'll follow that form, at that time.

My sense is that underlining for italic is formatting from the days of manual typewriters, but like double spaces after periods, that has changed with the arrival of new technology.

The bottom line though is that it won't hurt you even if you get it "wrong". If you write well enough you can send it handwritten on the back of a Sardis napkin and I'll read it. Trouble is, most people who think they write that well, don't and most people who do write that well have invested in paper and a printer.


Anonymous said...

We still use underline because it's easier to see during the manuscript stage. But with the wonderful thing called Find & Replace, it doesn't matter much which one the author uses.

ORION said...

My middle name is italic...I use it to death. I never underline (I have heard that recommendation - but not directly from an agent or editor)
My agent never asked me to underline.
My Putnam editor never asked me to underline.
My copy editor never asked me to underline.
And my first page proofs did not contain underlining.
I do not know what they do at the printers - as bebe said maybe some smaller publishers have other conventions but regardless they are easy to find and replace - Each publishers style varies slightly.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

I read story submissions onscreen for our zine and we request traditional manuscript format because it's easier for tired eyes to pick out the details. When I'm in the middle of my slush, you really DON'T want yours to stand out because of formatting. At that point it's just annoying.

Good writing trumps all, but good manners will only help your chances.

Unknown said...

Double spacing after a period isn't required anymore? Geez, am I behind the times.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about smaller publishers. I've only worked at major publishers.

By manuscript stage I only mean between when the editor sends it to copyediting for the first time and when the designer gets their hands on it. There's lots of things we Find & Replace for at that point—replacing italics with underline is one of them. Then the designer changes it back later. But we're going to do it no matter which one the writer uses, just to be safe. So that's why it doesn't matter much.