So I am finally getting around to reviewing some manuscripts which have been sent for critiques, and I have noticed that often the author underlines words that would otherwise be in italics... is that a standard submission format? Or is it only done by electronic submission to ensure the document translates properly?
I believe it is part of standard manuscript formatt. It's been my experience, though, that the level to which these small details are an issue varies a lot from market to market.
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Underlining typewritten manuscripts to indicate italics is as old as typewriters, though it dates back into handwritten manuscript submissions too. Underlining is a conventional Standard Manuscript Format practice that's been around for over a hundred years, and is widely considered a hallmark of professionalism. A wavy line for bold is also a SMF convention.
Savvy writers used to use lettering templates to underline for italics and mark bold passages. Bracketing the text with underscores and connecting the lines with a pen and a template, or ruler for straight lines, eased the burden of carriage returning and underlining that was needed to indicate italic formatting and wavy lines for neatness' sake. Typists' lettering templates have a wavy edge for lining the wavy line. The templates came in 10 and 12 point pica and elite styles. I haven't seen one offered commercially for quite some time. I have recently seen the wavy edge on draftsmans' and architects' lettering templates. But they too are in decline from the rise of computer aided design applications.
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited December 29, 2009).]
I think usually if they say SMF, its underline.
But I've missed or forgotten those things now and then and never got any complaints. I think most places are not going to make a huge deal of the small details...I think spacing and all that, and not using odd fonts, are generally the really important aspects.
Most markets that have specific preferences state them in their submission guidelines. Ones that don't, my self-imposed rule is underline for italics only for nondiscretionary prescriptive purposes, vessel names and the like, not for emphasis. Electronic short story submissions tend toward SMF, but are not all as prescriptive as many novel markets are. My guiding principle is, format manuscripts in plain-brown-wrapper ASCII style so that if/when a story is accepted for publication, a typesetting compositor doesn't have to go to great lengths to figure out my intended formatting, which could make all the difference between acceptance and rejection.
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited December 30, 2009).]
I actually did get a reader comment from one market that "the underlined made-up words were really annoying". Turned out that said market does ask (in an obscure corner of their guidelines) for actual italics rather than underline, but I would have expected any reasonably <i>au fait</i> slush reader to have been able to make the mental adjustment required.
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Please, please do, unless they ask you not to.
When I was typesetting I prayed for an underlined for italic manuscript. It's really nice because it's hard to scan for italics. (And when you flow the text into the program your fist step is to strip it of all it's formatting so you don't get any weird things going on.)
Don't do it. I know OSC says to, but that article was written years ago. Underlining was used because typewriters couldn't indicate itals. Now we can. It's not a big deal either way. If you like the old school look, cool, but it's not necessary. (At least not by my editor).
Posts: 603 | Registered: Jan 2006
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Well, the primary reason to use underlining / italics in a printed manuscript is to indicate emphasis of particular words. If you've got a lengthy passage all in italics, you might want to avoid underlining it all---it'll only irritate the editors and copysetters and, me, I'd rather irritate them for other reasons. (I forget how you're supposed to indicate a massive amount of italicism on the MS; somebody here must know proof symbols better than I do.)
I remember when I went into Internet Fan Fiction, I found the best (and usual) way to send anything out was in an HTML file...there, I could put in italics and different-sized type and other things and get away with it. It was hard to abandon that practice when I switched back to submitting stuff to market.
Also, on the message boards I frequented in those days, nothing spectacular was available, just straight type. I picked up the habit of emphasizing by putting things *between asterisks*---persisted in it even after things were upgraded and you could underline and italicize and all that.
(Actually, I think you can underline things right here---as I recall, I've been told a couple of times how to do it, even directed to the page that tells you---but I've read it and forgotten how every time. One can get carried away with this stuff, right?)
I used to think underlining for italics was weird, but I quickly discovered that it's much easier to spot underlining than italics when you're reading a printed manuscript. For e-subs, it doesn't make a difference, but if someone's going to be looking at a printed page then I try to do a search-and-replace before I submit (unless I've been specifically told not to).
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Standard Manuscript Format used to be fairly standardized before 1990 and the dawn of the personal digital age. Anymore, choices are wide and disparate. So many choices; so much ambiguous style guidance; one recommendation that is consistent; whatever choice is arrived at, internal consistency is paramount. With several dozen uses for italics in prose, it is also advisable to use italics for a few limited purposes.
The common uses of italics in prose are for emotional context emphasis, introspective monologue, and epistolary passages, which can be confusing if used heavily and/or for all three in one story. Add in the secondary frequency nondiscretionary uses: for vessel names, publication titles, unfamiliar foreign words, words or phrases used as words, taxonomic names, etc., and a substantial part of a manuscript's real estate is in italics or indicated such by underlining.
Extensive underlining is jarring to the eyes. To avoid that, manuscripts with lengthy italics passages used to require special typesetting instructions. Bracketed with nonce characters and block indented was/is one way.
As a typesetter, I loathe italics or underlining. More effort, disrupts the flow of composition, is rarely necessary, all too often overused, blunting impact, and frequently used in a kind of authorial directorial direct address "tell" to readers of the emotional context of a word or phrase. //"Oh no! No, he didn't go there!" Mikey loudly interjected.// I feel like I'm being told by an author how I must read a story. Not good.
In a one-on-one relationship between a manuscript and a typesetter compositor, a manuscript with frequent special formatting shifts a large burden of conveying meaning onto a typesetter and away from a writer. It wasn't unusual in my days as a hot and cold lead compositor for the shop master to strike out italics and insist upon roman type. He turned business away; we didn't have an unlimited supply of italic type. Saved me hours of tediously changing out type cases, proofreading, and type revisions.
Discretionary uses of italics disrupt my reading experience. Nondiscretionary uses contain valuable information, like with False Document stuff, say a fictional novel title metafictively referenced in a story. Of course I haven't read it, it doesn't exist. I can't look it up and uncover its relevance externally to a story incorporating one.
Add to it all several widely disparate prescriptive consensuses on underlining, italics use, and manuscript formatting, no wonder there's not much style guidance consistency anymore.
We romanizers are a fading breed. The most astute guidance I've gotten came from my shop master, one of my many writing mentors, an old school master printer of the recreated colonial press, little different from Guttenberg's original.
"If the words themselves don't carry the freight on their own, special formatting isn't doing any good."
However, in the fantastical genres, special fomatting is a going concern. And dashes and ellipsis points and bold and changing typefaces and etc. Noah Lukeman encourages special formating and punctuation acrobatics for varying pace and rhythm purposes. Several literary movements, not so obscure but periodically trendy, involve form that functions to enhance through visual flair.