I was just wondering how to indicate that a character is stressing a certain word in the dialog. I’ve thought about using capitalization but I’m not sure that’s the proper way, as I’ve also seen quotation marks used to similar effect. If you had any advice on which method you use, that would be more appreciated.
— Mike Morin
Portsmouth, Rhode Island
Underline. But remember, in most cases, you needed and shouldn’t give a specific line reading for any piece of dialogue. If a scene is working, readers (and actors) will naturally fall into the right tone.
But if you have a line that only makes sense one way — and it’s not the first way someone would read it — you have a couple of choices:
Set it up in stage direction:
Through clenched teeth --
Use a parenthetical:
I’m sure you’ll improve.
Underline the word or words that need to be stressed:
I’m not not saying he wasn’t a Bugwath demon but if he was — or wasn’t, I confused myself there — either way he was surly. And oddly cat-phobic. Now can we get back to the part where the whole world goes boom at midnight?
You’ll occasionally see italics in dialogue (often for foreign languages). A few screenwriters use boldface or uppercase in dialogue. I’ve never seen the need.
Quotation marks should be reserved for moments that a character might make “air quotes” around something they’re saying. The misuse of quotation marks is a scourge of modern English.