How to Emphasize via Italics – A Handy Guide for Retarded Editors

This post was written by Dark_Sage. He is Dark_Sage.


If you’re wondering whether the title refers to you or not, that means it does.

Editors, let’s talk.

We’ve come a long way from the days of yore where spelling mistakes were as common as gloryholes in a Denny’s bathroom stall, but y’all still have serious issues with understanding how to use italics properly. And because Crymore is the only place anyone learns English from these days, I thought I’d take it upon me to fix this issue before the new season begins.


Why are accents important?

Going off the assumption that your retardation is learned rather than inherent, as long as I can convince you that italics are useful, this issue will solve itself. Please let this be the case.



They reflect natural speech inflections.

“I really don’t want to get raped tonight, but I am in Detroit…”

People place emphasis on words and phrases all the time in daily parlance. It’s impossible to fully reflect the range of inflect with a binary subtitle set (that is, italics or non-italics), but that doesn’t mean one should ignore the decision. Rather, the choice to italicize for emphasis should be considered a relatively rare occurrence (for when it’s truly necessary), such that it still retains meaning as a distinguisher.



Meaning matters. 


Said inflections also convey specific meanings. By placing emphasis on certain words, you are effectively changing how the line is to be interpreted.

Here, have some examples:

I don’t want to kill you. -> It is what it is.

I don’t want to kill you. -> I don’t want to kill you, but someone else does.

don’t want to kill you. -> I really don’t want to kill you. Forceful. (You’d probably use this for a situation where the lovable protagonist is being told to kill the villain… by the villain himself. But the protag is trying to resolve the issue through other means, like the power of heart. I dunno. Back to more examples.)

I don’t want to kill you. -> I don’t want to kill you, but I’m gonna have to.

I don’t want to kill you. -> Uhh, this means nothing.

I don’t want to kill you. -> I don’t want to kill you, but maybe I’ll just maim you a bit.

I don’t want to kill you. -> I don’t want to kill you, but I may want to kill someone else.

If you don’t understand these differences, you should not be editing. Try again when you have a native understanding of the language, especially since you’re very likely fucking up other parts of the subs you’re working with.



Over here!

hey look

Calling attention to certain words or terms allows you to highlight their importance. Let’s say your translator told you that what a character’s saying is really important, but the only way for the viewers to truly get a sense of what’s going on is for them to read a fucking Wikipedia article on the subject. Well, you can use italics as a way to point out “hey, this might be important”.

For example, let’s take an example where you have a character doing a bit of foreshadowing.

“We’re not going to take this anymore.”

We’re not going to take this anymore.”

Both examples are correct, but the latter piques the viewers’ interest. Maybe they’ll start thinking about that scene more.

Or you can use them to highlight words being used in a pun, if you’re afraid the audience will miss the joke otherwise. Think of them as very handy cue cards.

In fact, this is actually why various style guides recommend you italicize foreign words — to let viewers know they should look that shit up to see what it means. Of course with anime, that would result in very… shitty looking subs.

Oh hi, Funimation.
Oh hi, Funimation.



So… italics on everything?


Please contain yourself. Like I said before, overuse of italics will cheapen their meaning. Think how people speak in real life and what the line needs to get across.

Just use your goddamn brain and actively check for this shit and you’ll be fine.




Special emphasis rules

cockatize me captain

Since a PSA alone would be boring, here’s some shit you might not have known:

Use italics first

Italics are not the only means to convey emphasis, but they are the most commonly accepted method.

Alternate methods of emphasis are CAPITALIZING LETTERS, bolding words, and underlining shit. These have all fallen out of favor in both literature and subtitles because they look terrible.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use them every now and then, but you should make absolutely certain italics would not get across what you need.


“How do I emphasize in a line that’s all italics?”

In keeping with the theme of using something out of place to attract attention, you’d simply use a normal, de-italicized version of the font for the word or phrase you want emphasized.

For example, if you’re using italics for when people’s thoughts need to be translated, you could have something like:

My dick is so hard right now.

I mean, doesn’t that just jump out at you?


Wait, I can use italics for…

There are lots of special rules regarding italics that may not necessarily come up in fansubs.

Letters of the alphabet. Probably not gonna come up much in subs, you can use them here. (I prefer to use quotation marks for these, but either way works.)

“The letters of the day are f and u.”

Sciencey names.

“If her mouth wasn’t such a hotbed of herpes labialis, I might take the dip more than once a week.”

Titles of work, like poems or movies and shit.

Orgazmo is a great example of a highly overrated highly underrated movie.”

Words by themselves. (I really prefer to use quotation marks for scenarios like this, though.)

“When I think of Dark_Sage, the word sexilicious springs to mind.” (Thanks for the sentiment, by the way.)





Don’t be stupid.

17 thoughts on “How to Emphasize via Italics – A Handy Guide for Retarded Editors”

    • Well, yes, sort of. I just wanted to emphasize the primary audience, since I didn’t write this as a guide to how to write “proper English”. You’re better off just following a musty old style guide if you’re writing academic texts.

  1. I always assumed this type of thing comes naturally to people who have had enough exposure to the inflections people use when speaking real English. Those who haven’t honestly need more exposure to English before they start trying to be editors.

    Though this is good as a basic guide, this stuff isn’t really something you can teach, it’s moreso something you pick up with exposure and experience.

    • Correct. It should be generally understood already. Unfortunately this issue has cropped up quite a bit in fansubs recently, so I thought I’d bring it to attention as an issue. This post is more of a “hey, remember that this is important” than a guide I expect people to pull up while editing. Hopefully it serves that purpose well.

  2. Setting aside the fact that the second emphasis in your first example should be on “Detroit” and not “am,” DS, man, I think you’re not taking into the account the meaning of no emphasis and overusing italics as a result. Let’s take a look at “We’re not going to take this anymore.”

    We’re not going to take this anymore.
    I really don’t see this working in a whole lot of situations. Maybe some high schooler is trying to rally his sad sack club members after getting pushed around by the Judo Club. Maybe a sergeant is trying to shame an REMF into tossing some heavier equipment his platoon’s way. You use this when you want to highlight unity, a “with us or against us” situation, text.

    We’re not going to take this anymore.
    This is where the emphasis traditionally would be. A general outburst, focusing on the injustice of the situation. “This shit will not stand” and all that. Sure, this could be foreshadowing here.

    We’re not going to take this anymore.
    Ah, this where tasty foreshadowing goes. Yes, really. Imagine the scene: a poorly-lit, half-empty bar two episodes into the series. The antihero is halfway through his whiskey when the antagonist slides onto the neighboring seat, orders a drink, and starts growling at him over some perceived slights. At the end of their brief conversation, the villain stands up, downs his drink, and quietly says to the antihero, “We’re* not going to take this anymore.” See? No emphasis needed. Don’t sell no-italics short. It can get the job done.

    But I think the real problem here is that you’re imploring “retarded editors” to “use [their] goddamn brain.” If they could do that, you wouldn’t have had to write the post, would you?ヽ(´ー`)ノ

    *Presumably the “we” refers to him and his compatriots. It’d be decidedly harder to take seriously if he were using the royal “We.”

    • Your confusion must be the result of poor writing skills on my part, since I’m relatively certain my English is not wrong here.

      In the first example it actually doesn’t matter where I put the accents, since one of the points of that bit is that natural speech has many various inflections that can’t all be reflected in subtitles if you don’t want to annoy your audience.

      The “We’re not going to take this anymore” line is fine as well. The exact scenario I had in my mind was one where the speaker was representing a group not explicitly known to the viewer. By leaving it straight as “We’re” without italics, people may not look into it much. By adding in italics “We’re” immediately becomes a focal point. Sort of along the lines of “Wait, what if the *we* I think he’s referring to is different from the actual meaning?”

      That is what I tried to get across in each of those scenarios.

      Also, I addressed this in both the article and the comments, but the primary value of this piece for editors is a PSA. Most of them should know this stuff, though if they didn’t, now they do.

  3. >Just use your goddamn brain

    The first lesson an aspiring editor should learn. Sadly, it’s not one the majority of fansubbers have taken to heart. Ego and blind devotion to semi-arbitrary standards tend to cloud people’s judgement. If there’s one right way to fansub, it’s to think about what you’re doing.

  4. “And because Crymore is the only place anyone learns English from these days…”
    I’m French. Yesterday my English teacher asked how the hell I knew what a comma splice was, and I couldn’t bring myself to answer “I read an anime review blog”.


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