Some fine points of underlining | Proper Manuscript Format | William Shunn

Some fine points of underlining

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A reader writes to ask:

I scoured your blog as well as the Internet, and am still having problems with underlining for italics. I am definitely using underlining but am fuzzy on the following:
  1. Do I use "underline words only" like this or do I include the spaces like this?
  2. Do I include punctuation like this: This is a sentence.
  3. Do I include quotes like this: "Buon giorno!"

As I've discussed before, you should always use underlining in your manuscripts to indicate words and phrases that are to be set in italics in the final printed version of your work. In trying to follow that advice, you've uncovered some interesting questions about the finer points of underlining.

The only hard and fast rule I have to offer is that, when underlining more than one consecutive word, you should be sure to underline the spaces between the words as well. Underlining the words only and not the spaces looks too choppy and distracting to the eye.

In other words, you should do it like this.

As for your second and third questions, I'm not aware of any definite standard. It seems to me to make sense to include the punctuation when underlining complete sentences, but no one is going to penalize you for not including the period or the quotation marks. In those cases, just do what seems to make the most sense to you. My only advice would be to be consistent in whichever method you employ.


Update:  Paul Witcover, author of Everland and Other Stories and an experienced copy editor, offers the following advice: "Punctuation following an underscore is also underscored." Thanks, Paul!

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FLOG is Hugo- and Nebula-nominated author William Shunn's blog on manuscript formatting and preparation for fiction writers. It features formatting questions from real readers and writers like you. Submit your questions to format at shunn dot net. Identitying information will remain private. We regret that we can't always respond individually to submissions, and that we can't answer every question we receive.

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