Manuscript Presentation: Italics

Hi! I’m a reader of your blog, and I was hoping I could pose a question to you. My friends and I have been debating how to present italics in a manuscript. Some say underlining, but I recently heard that editors prefer straight-up italics, so they don’t have to change the format later. Do you know which is currently preferred?

A lot of this depends on which software you use to create the manuscript and which software the publisher uses to typeset. Generally, if you use Microsoft Word, it doesn’t matter how you indicate italics because it can be converted to usable files for most advanced typesetting programs with the styles intact. In this case, it’s a simple Find/Replace for the typesetter to tag your styles in their program.

However, if you’re using WordPerfect (and if you are, stop it right now and join the 21st century!) or some other archaic word processing program or if you’ve added a lot of unusual styling or fonts to your document (and if you have, knock it off!) that won’t easily import to QuarkXPress or InDesign (the two most commonly used typesetting programs), the styles are stripped out in the conversion process and the typesetter must reference the original file to put the styles back in. In this case, underlining is MY preferred way to indicate italics because it’s much easier for the typesetter to see them.

As to which you use, if the publisher’s website doesn’t state a preference, go ahead and use regular italics. If they want it underlined, they’ll do it themselves or have you go back through and do it.

And one last note: a lot of writers overuse italics. Make sure it’s really needed before you use it.

Author: LDS Publisher

I am an anonymous blogger who works in the LDS publishing industry. I blog about topics that help authors seeking publication and about published fiction by LDS authors.

6 thoughts on “Manuscript Presentation: Italics”

  1. Interesting information, but I'm laughing my head off because I use WordPerfect still. I guess I'll stop! Thanks for the advice:)

  2. I guess I'm glad now that I use Microsoft Word! I used to use WordPerfect, and just switched over because Word was easier. Looks like I made a good choice!

  3. I hate to admit it, but I still use (and prefer) WordPerfect to write my novels.

    I use MSWord at work and hate it. I have to go through set-up routines every time I want to change a style, add a header/footer, insert a photo, etc. It's a pain. In WordPerfect, you just do it. No hassle.

  4. I've taken to composing in a text editor (I like gedit on Linux, Notepad++ on Windows, and TextWrangler on OSX). Granted, I'm not writing a novel yet. But I like the speed and minimalism of a text editor. And since everything I write is going to be published somewhere else (either on the web, or formatted to conform with submission guidelines), it makes sense for the base text to be stripped of all formatting and then I use whichever program I need to use to format with.

  5. Part of the problem with using WordPerfect is that it doesn't play nicely with other software. I can't import it cleanly into InDesign for layout, and I can't open it in Word to clean it up to get it ready for layout. I have to go through a bunch of extra hoops to deal with WP files. Using WP is fine if you send your editor (or typesetter) RTF files. Those can be opened universally, and they keep your formatting without conversion issues.

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