Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, February 22, 2014


"Cover" of video shared on Facebook by Bradley Haines

Does the picture above look innocuous? Just a snow drift in someone's yard? Click on the link below and see what happens next. Scary! (Origin not given, but believed to be a lake in Minnesota or Wisconsin. I'm told the phenomenon is the result of ice thawing a bit and being blown by the wind. And that it's not uncommon. Yikes!)

~ * ~


From last week - see Mosaic Moments, February 15, 2013.

1.  Forget the underline. 

Use italics for:

2.  Emphasis

3.  Foreign Words

4.  References 

New this week:

5.  The names of a very specific number of things:  The titles of books and magazines. Of theatrical works (a play, opera, ballet).  A long musical work or long poem. [An individual song, however, is enclosed in quotes, with no italics. Example:  She sang the "The Star Spangled Banner."] Also set in italics: the titles of movies, television and radio programs, even famous speeches.

Example:  the good ship Lollypop

Example:   The New York Times       But . . . the Orlando Sentinel*

Example:  I saw that dress in Vogue.

Example: the Fauré Requiem

Example:  Avatar is much more dramatic in 3-D.

*Italicize "the" in a newspaper title only if it is part of the newspaper's actual name, as is true with The New York Times.

Note:  Oddly enough, no italics are used for long sacred works, such as the Bible, the Koran. Also, the names of businesses, schools, sports teams, etc., are not italicized. 

6.  Date and Location lines.  Many authors, particularly authors of historical novels, use a Date & Location line above the body copy in various chapters of their books. Such lines should be Flush Left and italicized.  However, as with so many traditional publishing conventions, some e-publishers, and indies, are ignoring the Flush Left, indenting the Date and Location line just like a regular paragraph. The work involved to fix the auto indent for these lines is so minimal I find the concept absurd. My advice: keep with tradition by zapping the auto indent and resetting to zero for that line. [Highlight - Format Paragraph - Indent zero instead of .3 (or.5)]

Another wiggle from tradition: some indie authors are putting the Date and Location line in Bold instead of Italics. Bold stands out well on e-readers, and this is a change from tradition I find more acceptable than failing to adjust the auto indent.


London, 1817

 Note:  In Numbers 7 - 12 below, traditional rules and modern practice become murkier.  Please keep in mind that I am referring solely to the way things are done in contemporary fiction.

7.  Sounds.  Most publishers and authors, including myself, put sounds in italics. 


“You will never again say No to me.” Whack! Another fist to the ribs sent her crashing off the bed onto the floor. 

“I pay, you obey.” The marquess rounded the high bed and kicked her in the ribs.

9.  Dream Sequences. It's a common fictional device to put dream sequences in italics. This becomes annoying when it's a long dream, as italics are harder to read. And of course if you want to fool your readers into thinking it isn't a dream, you might want to skip the italics.

So, basically, use italics for dream scenes only if you want your readers to be aware it's a dream and you haven't said so in any other way. Also, when the dreamer is aware it's a dream, italics don't seem to be necessary. For example, the recurring nightmares in the J. D. Robb mysteries are never italicized.)

10.  Quotations.  The general rule as I learned it many years ago:  If the quotation is shorter than three lines, run it into the text and use quotation marks around it. If it is longer than that, indent the margin and use standard type. No italics.  (I was even taught to indent both sides of a block quote.) BUT in general usage in this new century, nearly all quotes longer than a line or two are put in italics, block indentation unnecessary. Which places Quotations in the same category as "Referencing"  (#4 above).  Basically, most long quotes in novels are from letters, and although a few publishers still indent long letters, it appears many do not. 

Just remember that you must use either quotation marks, italics, or block indentation to distinguish a letter, poem, or whatever is being quoted, from the body of the manuscript. In the following example, I chose to use italics even for a short quote so it would clearly be a reference and not look like dialogue. 


Scrawled orders came in a note on Cecy’s breakfast tray, delivered at five minutes short of noon: Carriage wear. Warm, inconspicuous. Boots. Be ready by one. NB

To which she promptly replied: Mr. Black. I must decline your gracious invitation. I own nothing inconspicuous. CL.

11.  Thoughts.  This is the trickiest one of all—even the mass-market publishers sometimes disagree on how to indicate a character's thoughts. I will attempt to convey the most common, and generally accepted, approach.  

Note:  Introspection is when a character is thinking, his/her thoughts most frequently recorded in third person (he/she). Introspection also occurs in books told in first-person (I, we).

If all thoughts required italics, then every first-person book would be chock full of them. Which they're not. 

Think of the last third-person book you read. Did it have italics every time the hero or heroine thought about something? No, it did not. Because Introspection is not italcized. 

If, however, you are writing in third person (he/she instead of I) and your character suddenly thinks in first person: I can't believe I said that!, that's the time for italics. However, that same thought could be expressed without italics in third person: She couldn't believe she'd said that!

In a first-person book, italics would be reserved for something like a sudden direct thought, such as, Yikes! What have I done?  

For all those who write in third person, a good rule of thumb is:  if it's a first- or second-person thought, use italics. But use them sparingly.  Often third-person works as well, if not better. (And never use quotation marks, thus making your main characters talk to themselves. That is a true sign of "amateur hour." Heroes and heroines do not talk to themselves!) 


Cecy winced. Oh dear God, and here I thought a bit of bright paint and colorful fabric might help. Yet not even the whole of Nick Black’s fortune . . .


No, of course not. Not in such a hideous cloak and bonnet. So, merciful heavens, what must the matron be thinking?

That you are what you are, a sinner in search of redemption.

Repeat: If the thought is not "direct"; i.e., simply a statement of what a character is thinking, that is Introspection and is not italicized. For example, I debated using italics for "merciful heavens" but decided it felt more like part of the longer thought rather than a sudden direct exclamation. See also the example below.

Example:  A party, Amelia thought, was a perfectly splendid idea.

12.  Epithets.  If a character thinks an epithet, rather than saying it out loud, many publishers and authors, including me, consider that direct thought rather than introspection and use italics.


Hell’s hounds! Why shouldn’t he use her? She worked for him, did she not? Cecilia Lilly was just another tool in his vast arsenal of useful people and clever tricks.  

**Quotes are from Cecilia, a Regency Darkside novella, currently in progress.

13.  Telepathy.  In a slightly different type of "thought," italics are used to indicate messages transmitted by telepathy.  The example below is from The Sorcerer's Bride, Book 2 of my Futuristic Paranormal series, Blue Moon Rising.


What? Kass turned to Tal, who was totally occupied, giving orders for a special team to check on the Tycho’s bridge officers.


Kass—eyes wide, mouth agape—focused on her brother,. Is that you, K’kadi? Did you speak? His skin turned as pink as a Pybbite, K’kadi studied his boots, shoulders slumped, as if he’d just been accused of some embarrassing social faux pas.

K’kadi Amund, from the moment of your birth, you have never spoken a word. And now we discover you can! Overcome by emotion, Kass spoke as K’kadi did, in silence.

Not speak. K’kadi’s words might be heard only in her head, but his defensiveness came through loud and clear.
Yes, speak! At least to those who can hear you.

K’kadi shrugged.

Kass’s anger evaporated. This was K’kadi, who for all his wondrous gift of creating illusions, could at last communicate, if only with those who could hear his thought-speak.

~ * ~

 I have been adding to this list of italics for several weeks now and hope I have caught most of the instances that need italics. If you have more to add, please don't hesitate to comment.  I'd like to feel this is a truly comprehensive list. (#13, Telepathy, was added  February 25, 2014, at the suggestion of one of my readers.)

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft & Rayne Lord, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here. 


1 comment:

  1. Great post, Grace. And that video of the moving ice? Unbelievable!