Thursday, December 22
The Great Debate: Italics or Underline?
What's the right way? Everyone has a different answer (which is remarkable since you'd think there could only be two, right?)
Underlining is the most common, as there are tons of books, guides and sites that back this up. But this comes from the days when you couldn't click a button and change your text to italics. Then later it continued, when fonts were always Courier and italics was hard to read. But today, using a serif font with a clear italic version is available to everyone.
What's a writer to do.
I always used underlines because that's what the books said. I submitted my novel to agents, then later to editors, with all my italics denoted by underlines. No one cared. Now that I have an editor, I asked her which she preferred. She told me to use italics, so now I do that. The fact that I used underlines to submit to her didn't bother her one bit. She still bought the book.
Now I use italics since that's how it'll look and I like to see what the page will look like. Seeing a lot of italics on one page is a visual clue that maybe I have too many (I LOVE italics). Underlines don't stick out the same way to me.
Bottom line, don't worry so much over this. No agent is going to look at your pages and shout "Eek! The used italics (or underlines) REJECT REJECT REJECT!" They're going to read your work and judge it on how good that work is. As long as you use a readable serif font (A serif font is one like Times Roman with the little tails on the ends), and it's consistent and clear what your italics are, they won't care.
They just want a great story they can't put down. Give them that, and they won't even care that you accidentally used there instead of their on page five. This holds true for so many of the small things writers worry over, so you can relax some there. As long as you're professional, clear, and consistent, you're in good shape.
Which do your prefer? Italics or underline? What other types of minutia details do you worry about?