Italics, Bold, and All Caps

Hello, Write Owls. Welcome to Day 16 of Grammar 110. Today we’re talking about the proper use of italics, bold, and all caps.

Italics are used for three primary purposes. One is to indicate the title of a long work. Another is to indicate a word is representing itself. The final is to add emphasis. Italics are the preferred form of emphasis (compared to bold and all caps).

Examples:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the final book in the famous fantasy series.

The subject of the sentence is people.

I hate going to the dentist.

I’ve also seen italics used to indicate specific scenes in a work of fiction like dreams, visions, etc. This is another acceptable use for italics.

Bold is typically only used in non-fiction writing for emphasis like in textbooks, pamphlets, etc. If you are writing a work of fiction, you should not use bold.

All caps should only be used in works of fiction for acronyms or other all-cap abbreviations, e.g. NASA, LLC, etc. All caps generally indicate emphasis and loudness. I personally find all caps annoying. I’d rather let the context indicate words are loud and emphasized. The most common place where I see all caps is in shouted dialogue. Just say the character is shouting. Then there’s no need to use all caps. If you say the character shouts and use all caps, it’s redundant.

With any kind of emphasis, do not overuse it. If you italicize ten words on each page of your novel, they will lose their effect very quickly because readers will start ignoring them. Use them sparingly.

That’s all I have for italics, bold, and all caps. If you are a fiction writer, you should only be using italics with the occasional all caps for acronyms. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I will answer them either as a reply or in my Q&A on Saturday.

For practice, determine with words should be italicized in these sentences. If you want me to check your answers, leave them in the comments.

1. The Lord of the Rings is a popular fantasy series.

2. Don’t forget to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

3. Do you have a hard time spelling occasionally?

4. My dog loves belly rubs.

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