If only there were ways to write a story without all those pesky words. If there were a short-cut, some gimmick we could use in place of writing, some symbol or symbols we could play with to increase expressiveness. Well writers, there are such symbols and, like chocolate, we can’t get enough of them. They’re called bolds, underlines and italics and it only takes a click to install them into your story. But should you use them? Are they necessary in the making of great story-telling? The answer is NO.
Reason #1: I love you very much, John. I do love you so much. Does italicizing love, very, help show your reader how important these words. No again. Your reader doesn’t need to be beat over the head and after seeing these gimmicks over and over again, crutches become invisible and have no impact at all.
Is there a better way? Of course there is. You’re a writer, for gosh sakes, so emphasize with words and not by clicking a crutch. Jane ran her finger through John’s hair and whispered, I love you, John. I really, really love you. Note no italics, bolds or underlines, just plain old meaningful word-smithing.
Reason #2: Manuscripts these days are written in Microsoft Word and its many, many releases. Many are also written on MAC machines as well as a dozens of other writing platforms. Consequently, to manufacture a clean book, a publisher must strip all this formatting crap out before conversion. These days we even do this with our print books—everything, formatting-wise, goes and along with it going goes underlines, bolds and italics.
After stripping, if these writerly crutches, they have to be put back in, which is a massive waste of time for something that wasn’t necessary in the first place. With that said, italics, bolds and underlines will not be put back into your novel or book if you have over-used these devises. So, it is to your advantage to learn how help your reader know when certain words or passages are important.
Of course there are instances where italics must be used, as with titles and foreign words (but only the first time the foreign word is used. Subsequent uses do not need to be italicized). Also, don’t use italics for interior monologue (thoughts) or prayers. They are not necessary. Please use this Web site for additional help on when to use italics. The key understanding, when writing novels or books, is to always use italics sparingly.