Kristen Lamb posted today about Four Writing Crutches that Insult the Reader’s Intelligence, and one of her four points was Punctuation & Font as Props.
Now I agreed with her other three points: Adverb Abuse, Qualifiers, and Telling instead of Showing. But when it came to Punctuation & Font, I found myself thinking that I was guilty on all accounts (except for bold, because that’s never acceptable). I use italics in my writing, exclamation points, and ellipses. I don’t overdo it, but they’re there.
In my work in progress, sitting at about 55,000 words as of writing of this post, I have twelve exclamation marks. That’s not too bad. In the same novel, I have about 120 words italicized for emphasis, not including words from another language or written words within the story. For instance, a snippet of dialogue: “I have no desire to prevent worthy engineers from applying.” For me, it doesn’t read the same if worthy isn’t italicized. When it’s italicized, it implies that the speaker doesn’t find the person he’s speaking to a worthy engineer. When it isn’t italicized, it reads as if the speaker might find the person worthy, even in context.
Or does it? Maybe it’s just me. When I’m writing, I find the emphasis necessary. Maybe I'm a noob. But when I’m reading, I sometimes come upon a word that’s italicized that doesn’t fit with the flow of the story, as if the wrong word was italicized. When I read the sentence, I add inflection to a different word, not the intended one. So I wonder if others will do this while reading my work. It could be that in regular speech, I italicize spoken words. (When I speak, I think of the words that I’m saying as if I’m typing them out…. Yes. I am a bit crazy)
Oh, and I only have two ellipses in my entire novel so far, so apparently, I’m doing alright there.
Now, when it comes to the em-dash (this little beauty —), I probably over use it. 155 instances of it in my novel at the moment.
What about you? Do you emphasize certain words with italics or certain statements with exclamation points? When you read, do italics distract you? Are exclamation points unnecessary?