Italics, Bolding, or ALL CAPS—Which Is Best?

As you write your book, you probably sometimes wonder what’s the best way to emphasize important words. Your first instinct may be to place them in all capital letters (called “all caps” by book editors and publishers—IT LOOKS LIKE THIS). But that is rarely the best way to go.

As you type your Word document, all caps look pretty good to the eye, and italics look frail, faded, wimpy, and unnoticeable. But in a formatted book manuscript, transformed by a graphic designer from your Word doc version into a printable PDF, italics come out looking pretty impressive. In fact, the book publishing industry routinely uses italics for emphasis, and hardly ever uses all caps. Bolding is sometimes used, but only for things like subheadings and titles of lists. The rule is, for books, that almost all emphasized words should appear in italics.

If you don’t believe me, pick up any professionally published book and take a look for yourself. You’ll see lots of stand-out italics, little or no bolding, and I can almost guarantee no words set in all caps. Okay, I lied a little . . . all caps—like bolding—can be used for list titles. Other than that, it pretty much never appears.

Keep this in mind as you write, and you’ll save your book editor some time going through your manuscript deleting your all caps and putting words in italics. And when you save your book editor time, you save yourself money.

bolding italics caps





Jessi Rita Hoffman … book editing by an industry professional