Avoid inner italics.


I used to have a problem, Shannon thought. I believed the only way to convey a reader’s inner thoughts in third person was to use italics, but this made my text clumsy. I relied on the device too much, and I had to learn anther way.


For some reason , I never liked using¬†italicized¬†inner dialog. In my writing, it just seemed clumsy and get in the way. However, I instinctively knew I needed more introspection. This confused me, because I knew the books I was reading didn’t contain pages of information in italics, yet they somehow got the point across of what the characters were thinking.

Then, I read some sage advice. A book I was reading on self-editing told me to take the italics out.

At that moment, Shannon realized what he had been missing all along. Conveying the thoughts of a character didn’t require italics. Yes, the phrasing would be a little bit different, but with a little practice he could simply slip thoughts in with the action and dialog.

He was amazed. He took a sip of wine and considered the possibilities. He would need to look at the current manuscript. He set down his wine. He marked the book and set it aside. There was work to do.

2 thoughts on “Avoid inner italics.

  1. D. Moonfire

    I’m not fond of italics for thoughts, mainly because I use them almost exclusively for the second language (and telepathy with different quote marks). Also, I’m lazy and touch typing italics is a pain in the ass (more so with my specific (e.g., special) build system).

    I would be more inclined to use italics for third-person omni instead of third-person limited.

  2. shannon Post author

    I occasionally like to add italics in regular dialog to put a little backspin on a word. It’s a device to be used lightly, no more than a half dozen a book in my opinion, but it can have a nice effect.


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