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Where & When & How To Use Italics, Single Quotes And/Or Double Quotes

I've been reviewing old movie reviews recently, going through one review just to get to another one that forced me to check the previous again for certain flaws in my formatting.

The hours flew by, and it came to a point where revision was perfection bordering on obsession, and I had to either give up or do something to let me actually finish the task. Have you ever been stuck in the loop of eternal revisions before? I get there often, usually when there are things I know I should be doing instead gnawing on my mind. Whatever the reason: it's not fun.

If you've been there, there is one common remedy you might want to try before giving up: planning.

With a plan, or rather a set of rules, you shouldn't need to continually revise your writing. You may want to go back and check just once more anyway, as us OCD folks do, but cast that thought aside before you start thinking too much about it! And more importantly: take steps to assure that each piece of text is complete when you finish it, and that gnawing urge to revise may very well disappear. It's human to err, and if you don't find the error the first two times you read through your text (proof-reading twice is my rule #1), chances are nobody else will either. If they do they can let you know, it'll be much faster and easier to edit that way! Alright? This is probably more motivation for myself than any of you readers...

Anyway, the point I'm getting to here is one re-occurring wonder I've had that's been bogging me down during these review reviewings, and that is: how to use Italics. I've previously used two techniques in writing. I've either italicized the important text, or I've 'single quoted and italicized'. I've used italics for titles and names, but not all titles and names, and I've used single quotes for longer phrases, but also for titles and names.

So, what to do? I Googled, and found this useful article.

Basically, you can italicize names of titles, releases, vehicles, sounds, foreign words and words you wish to emphasize. Underlines and italics apparently have the same function, though personally I read underlines in a bolder, deeper voice than I do italics (I read them in my mind).

What about single quotes versus italics? Here's a little Q & A, that doesn't reach a definite conclusion, but offers some good advice on what and what not to do.

The main rule of thumb is: stay consistent. Both italicized, single, or double quotes work, but stay consistent. Use the same formatting for everything. One user recommends using quotation marks in addition to italicized text only when it needs to be distinguished; could otherwise cause confusion. Another user recommends emboldening text for emphasis, and using italic text only for references when working with a lot of references. There's no definite answer, but in order to make a definite set of rules for myself, I decided to use:

- italics as references mainly for titles, releases and fictional names in segments of text with few references. In lists or series of references regular text will suffice.
- italics also to place emphasis on certain words, though taking care not to overuse this... as I have done in a bunch of older posts.
- bold text to emphasize words when they're to be spoken louder, or for conclusive emphasis (example: The End).
- 'single quotes' for bits and pieces: words, phrases, etc, that should be distinguished from surrounding text but aren't direct quotes (example: as IMDB used to say, he was like a 'gust of breezeful paranoia'). Note IMDB never actually said that.
- 'single quotes with italicized text' when the distinguishable piece of text, such as above, should be emphasized.
- "double quotes" only for spoken word or direct quotation.
- block quotes for quotations or textual segments that should be referenced, that either span multiple lines or are the main focus of a post.

There! Done! Hope that'll make revising reviews a little easier from now on...

Blogtip #1 - Random Wisdom

Anyone who has ever made a resolution discovers that the strength of their determination fades with time. The important thing is not that your resolve never wavers, but that you don’t get down on yourself when it does and throw in the towel.

If you have nothing to post, post a quote!

Prepostitions Should Not Be Capitalized

You learn new things all the time. One thing I've learned today, is that prepositions should not be capitalized. Have I known this before? Maybe it's slipped my memory as time passed. If you read the blog (you are now, so maybe you do, but then again maybe it's your first visit; if it is I'd urge you to frequent because sometimes I rarely post) you'll notice that all titles have uppercase letters for all words included, prepositions too. Out of habit I had all words capitalized in a title I'd written, no big err. For the course, of course I'll oblige my teacher and change it to the recommended format, but I doubt I'll be changing my blog title structure any time soon.

How do other blogs do? What's right and wrong? Are you free to choose or does the uppercase 'Of' in 'Wings Of Uncertainty' really make it seem structurally wrong? That's my title btw. I can't tell, because that's how I've always written titles as far back as I remember. If the little middle word is not capitalized, it feels like you don't pay attention to it. You read Wings of Uncertainty differently than you do Wings Of Uncertainty, don't you? Of course; of course the 'of' in the title really isn't very important, and doesn't deserve added attention, but still... hmm... how do other blogs do?

I checked Technorati's top 100 blogs to find out. Well, that was what I planned on doing but it started getting boring after a while so I settled for just 50. Just the first page of each one, a quick overview. I noticed that the overwhelming majority either do as my teacher recommended, capitalizing all words but the prepositions, or capitalize only the first word and other highlights, such as names, brands, places, topics, among other things. Four blogs do as I do; use uppercase on all words, and an additional four user lowercase for all words except the first one (which I don't like at all btw). One blog had uppercase words on everything, not just the starting letter. I know this is rather common, and it eradicates the problem of having to chose which words to highlight or case completely. All words can be automatically uppercased or lowercased by script btw, it's a simple fix for all formating errors on any one site. Anyway, here's q quick overview of the blogs I checked, arranged by number:

Lowercase on prepositions only: 24
Lowercase on all words except highlights: 15
Lowercase on everything except first letter on first word: 4
Uppercase on all new words: 4 (like this site)
Uppercase on all letters: 1
???: 1

It certainly seems that lowercasing prepositions in titles is the most common approach. Also, that ??? represents one blog that didn't seem to have any defined rule for titles, capitalizations were a big jumble there. Some lowercase, some uppercase, some whatever. I wonder how many blogs actually have title structure in mind? How many have a scheme worked out for this sort of thing? I've thought about it earlier, but I've never had a standard. Not until now at least, not it's Uppercase For All New Words. That's the way it'll stay OK.

Oh btw, another thing I learned: there is no lowercase ok... it's supposed to be OK or okay. OK? Good day.

Say It With A Simile

I thought I use a lot of metaphors, but I just became aware that maybe I never use metaphors. What I do use are similes. I tend to add a 'like' between the object being compared and the end-result, and apparently that's not a metaphor any longer. Strange huh?

I wonder how many people who speak of metaphors actually use them? I know I've heard the word occasionally used in lyrics, and I'm not so sure it's used correctly any longer. I think it was through the lyrics I took my own definition of the word metaphor for granted. Anyway. Say it with a simile (smile, get it? yeah?)... that's my new motto. Also, the words Metonymy or Synecdoche just won't stick in my mind... at least not the spelling. Writing similes is a lot easier.

Mortgage

This word just doesn't spell right.

Google Better Than Spellcheck

It's not a new realization I've made, but I felt like it's one I need to post. The revelization that should have been revealed already by the title is that Google is way better at checking my spelling than any other spellchecker I've tried. When I write posts like this one, I use a FireFox spellcheck plugin to rinse through common typos. It commonly highlights words that it doesn't recognize in red, some of them completely valid words, such as the word banderoles. There are also words that are apparently not valid, such as as FireFox, spellcheck & plugin. Then, most importantly, it highlights words with a typo in them, or words that I just can't spell, such as aquintense. If I right click aquintense for a list of verbular alternatives I get quintessence and insensate... not really what I was looking for.

If, however, I type the word in a Google search, the small notification: "Did you mean acquaintance?" pops up above the results, along with a couple of other similar alternatives (aquinese and acquittance, also completely new alternatives). If I click the correctly spelled version of the word I meant I even get a definition of the word, short and simple. Like this:

  1. A person's knowledge or experience of something.
  2. One's slight knowledge of or friendship with someone.

So far Google has recognized everything the spellcheck plugin has failed at. I've tried the 'After the Deadline' plugin developed by WordPress staff as well, and a few standalone spellcheckers, but none of them do a really good job. A last resort that does work, and manages to find not only typographical but also grammatical errors, is Microsoft Word. Open Office? Star Office? Yadda yadda? Nope, they don't do the job at all. Wish Google could stuff all their amazing spellchecking functionality into an easy to use plugin for the browser, but wait, maybe that already exists with Chrome?

If it does, that might mean I finally found a reason to switch. If not, I'll keep hoping, maybe someday this dream will become a reality!

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