Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Persuasion: avoid italics for emphasis

It's a fairly broad principle that you should not overuse italics (or boldface or underlining or whatever) for emphasis in persuasive writing because it will wear thin quickly and annoy your readers. One of several sources on this point is the Texas Law Review Manual on Usage & Style, 10th edition at page 41.

But what can you do instead? Try placing the word or phrase to be emphasized at the end of a sentence, where it will get emphasis naturally. The beginning of a paragraph is also a natural stress point. Here's an example of end-of-sentence placement:

This statute only applies at the inception of a case and is a completely different requirement than obtaining a qualified expert that will ultimately testify at trial.

This statute applies only at the inception of a case. The requirement of obtaining a qualified expert who will ultimately testify at trial is completely different.

I made other changes here, too: moved "only" to directly before what it modifies, made two sentences out of one, changed "expert that" to expert who," and avoided the nonpreferred construction of "different . . . than."

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