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This might be a tad off-topic, but I am looking for an English-specific answer.

When I’m using italic text to denote emphasis or a quotation, should the italicisation extend to the punctuation surrounding the italicised words? If the punctuation marks are not italicised, in most digital fonts the italic letters will crash horribly—or at least intrude awkwardly—into the Roman punctuation. It’s especially problematic with parentheses, and lowercase Fs. Since I don’t have the luxury of typesetting all of my documents in lead, I’ve taken to either italicising the punctuation, or inserting a thin space (for lowercase F) or a hair space (for other letters) before the closing punctuation.

Examples:

  • What is that? ⇒ What is that? ⇒ What is that ?
  • Solid (or fluff). ⇒ Solid (or fluff). ⇒ Solid (or fluff ).
  • (Good times!) ⇒ (Good times!) ⇒ (Good times !)

I know this is a nitpicky thing (hell, even I think so, and I’m the one asking), but is there a standard way to address it? Just because this is the internet, it doesn’t mean we need to totally disregard the typesetting facilities that are available.

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I can't add a decent answer but I feel your pain; most word-processing programs seem to have been written by geeks who knew not the first thing about typesetting (exception for TeX) –  smirkingman Jan 25 '11 at 8:37
    
@smirkingman: Yeah...I constantly have to resist pulling a Knuth and letting my annoyance become typesetting software. –  Jon Purdy Jan 25 '11 at 21:59
    
Is the punctuation and brackets crashing in print or only on-screen? If you're using Windows, it's only recently (Win7) received some real attention to text display. In OS X roman or italic punctuation and brackets work just as well. If you're doing typographical corrections anyway, as any good publication must, it's just another thing to visit. Remember though that unless you're using a typesetting capable program, things look different on screen compared to printed form. MS Word will display the same text differently to Outlook and to notepad etc. They merely use a different render engine. –  Chris Nov 7 '12 at 23:38

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The Chicago Manual of Style (14th Ed.) has this to say about it:

5.4: The typographic treatment of punctuation adjacent to a variant font (italic or boldface within roman text, for instance) should be governed by both appearance and meaning. Generally, punctuation marks are printed in the same style of font of type as the word, letter, character, or symbol immediately preceding them.

5.5: A question mark or exclamation point that immediately follows an italicized title and that is not part of the title should be set in roman to avoid misreading.

5.6: Parentheses and brackets enclosing italic material may be set in italic to avoid such common typefitting problems as overlapping ascenders or descenders or visually uneven spacing within enclosures. When the enclosed material begins and ends in italic but contains roman text in between, italic enclosures may be used. If only one end of the enclosed material is italic, however, the parentheses or brackets should be roman.

Looking at your examples, therefore, I think option 2, then option 1 or 3, then option 2 are the best choices.

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Ah, this is a reference I can appreciate. Jonathan Leffler is right when he says that house style probably takes precedence over my own typesetting preferences when it comes to publication, but at least I can quote a reference to back up my usage when I have a say in the matter. –  Jon Purdy Jan 25 '11 at 7:35
    
Bringhurst says not to do this. He says to write [sic] not [sic]. He also provides a rare case where you would go the other way, but you probably won't be able to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning. :) –  tchrist Jul 18 '12 at 16:31
    
@tchrist It seems everyone is going to non-italicised [sic]. Seems right without italics in prose. –  Chris Nov 7 '12 at 23:19

In some traditional typesetting contexts, you would never italicise parentheses even within italic text (and I'd recommend doing this yourself if you have the luxury). I must highly recommend not to only italicise one of the parentheses! (As in your example ‘(or fluff)’.)

Otherwise I agree with the other comments on ‘it depends’, according to aesthetics and ambiguity of the text. Just make sure you're consistent.

Finally, your use of the thinspace is to be highly commended. Keep it up.

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Logically, it depends on whether the punctuation belongs to the italicized text or to the rest of the sentence.

  • He asked, "Why?".
  • He asked, "Why! Because it is not obvious to me why."

(And yes, we can debate the presence of the full stop in the first example - where 'full stop' gets translated to 'period' in American English.)

If you are going for publication, then 'House Rules' probably take precedence over 'logic'.

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I have a beloved book of writing style, clarity and grace. In it, the author always continues the italicizing or the underlining—whatever—through with the punctuation.

I just copy what I admire, and the book is brilliant, meaning the author is brilliant, meaning it won't hurt if I copy his ideas, even if there is no "rule" saying one way or the other.

Just my $0.02.

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Basically, he and I both follow what was mentioned in the excerpt above. –  LaBarrister Jul 18 '12 at 2:45

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