Guest Post: Ask the Book Doctor

The Book Doctor offers Typography & Dialogue advice for the self-publishing writer…

Q: When I first started on a novel in 1995, publishers wanted italicized words to be underlined instead, even though we had the capability of changing the font on our computers. Is this still the case? Can we now use the appropriate font, or must we inquire from each publisher? I have visions of having two manuscripts, one with and one without italics.

A: It’s always best to check with the publisher, but The Chicago Manual of Style says to use italics. If you do use underlines, tell the publisher your intent that underlined items are to be set in italics in the printed version.

Q: In Write In Style I did not see anywhere you may have addressed this directly, but when writing internal dialogue, I take it from your book that you would never say he told himself or I told myself something. Is that correct?

A: This conclusion might be drawn from the fact that in my book I say “thought to himself” is redundant, because we cannot think to anyone but ourselves. We can, however, tell other people things, just as we can tell ourselves things, so I have no problem with saying he told himself, she told herself, or I told myself.

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What’s your question about writing or publishing? Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to

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