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Tuesday, April 24, 2012



Underlining is a way to distinguish, or emphasize, specific text, a word or group of words, from that around it. As wordprocessing has become more prevalent and more sophisticated, many writers choose to italicize rather than underline; thus, the two techniques are interchangeable. Therefore, it is technically incorrect to underline an italicized word(s) or italicize an underlined word(s).

1) DO NOT underline/italicize punctuation (commas, end marks, semicolons, colons) that follows the words being underlined/italicized, unless the punctuation is part what is being underlined/italicized.
     For example: Callie Ann Metcalf announces the release of her seminal book on Southern girls, Friends Make the Tea Sweet, Enemies Add the Ice!

2) Underline/Italicize the titles of things that can stand alone:
  •  Journals and Magazines
  • Plays
  • Novels
  • Long Music Compositions
  • Movies
  • Television Shows
  • Radio Shows
  • Art Pieces
  • Published Speeches
  • Lengthy Poems
  • Pamphlets
3) Caution! DO NOT underline/italicize titles of short stories, television show episodes, journal or magazine articles, or poems. Enclose these titles in quotation marks.
     For example: Her last article, "Summer House," which appeared in The New Yorker, offers a teaser about what readers can expect from the longer manuscript.

4) Underline/italicize names of famous planes, trains, automobiles, boats, space craft, and other vehicles, but not vehicle makes, models, manufacturers or brands. The prefixes USS, HMS and RMS are never underlined/italicized.
     For example: We rode in his Dodge Charger to the re-enactment of the sinking of the S.S. Titanic.

5) Notice! DO NOT underline/italicize titles of religious works or the chapters within them.
     For example:  Read your Bible every day. The Gospel of Luke is my favorite book.

6) Underline/italicize foreign words that are not loanwords (see my L post) or easily translated by a majority of readers.
      For example:  Frederick snickered quietly just behind Felicia's shoulder, pushing her buttons until her temper boiled to al dente. Then, she caught herself and backed off the burner.

7) Underline/italicize words under discussion.
     For example:  When you say the word etiquette, my posture goes prim.

8) Underline/italicize sound words.
For example:  Shhhstka-stka-stka, shhhstka-stka-stka. The boys could hear the rattlesnake, before they could see it.

Though, many teachers and many writers still prefer underlining, I almost always italicize instead. To me, the text looks cleaner and the eye flows across it easier, while the brain still understands that the words are being emphasized for a particular reason. All in all, it comes down to personal preferences. Which do you tend to use?

Tomorrow: Verb-Subject Agreement (I know I have it in reverse order. Give me a break. V is hard.)
This post is brought to you by the April A to Z Blog Challenge. Check back all through April for daily discussions of writing conventions.


Anonymous said...

I prefer italics to underlining.

shelly said...

Would you underline sound words in fiction writing? Because that looks wierd. I'd rather italicize.

mare ball said...

Hello Lucy! Thanks for dropping by my blog. I wish I'd found yours much wonderful info. I read some older posts as well and decided to follow. I enjoy your writing!

Jaye Robin Brown said...

I prefer italics, but one of my crit partners underlines. It took me a bit to get used to.

William Kendall said...

I exclusively use italics for emphasis instead of underlining, and I've taken to using it for foreign words sprinkled in the text as well.

Norma Beishir said...

I have a nasty habit of italicizing the punctuation following an italicized word.

Like William, I reserve italics for emphasis--and characters' thoughts.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lucy .. so pleased you've done this series .. excellent to read through later - really helpful ideas .. cheers Hilary

The Darrell's Blog said...

Howdy , is that your only blog or you personally have some more?