How To Voice Copy That’s Set In Italics

Hey, there!

The other day, I got a question from my client Sara asking me an interesting question.

How would she narrate an audiobook passage that included some of the copy set in italics?

GREAT question. Here’s the answer. And here’s the other answer. And the other other answer.


PS: To celebrate 100 episodes, I’m going to hold a virtual AMA – an “Ask Me Anything” session – for that particular video. I’ll be looking through all the comments you’ve left for the first 99 videos, and grabbing any really good questions you might have and answering them. You can also “ask me anything” via email: just send your question to me, at, with the letters AMA in the subject line. I’ll try to answer all the questions I get – and it can be about anything you want to know about: VO, acting, on-camera presence, internet marketing, productivity, radio, TV, film, even the process and products I use to put out these videos.

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Hope this helps!


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Raw YouTube Captioning

hey there it’s David H Lawrence the 17th
and the other day I got a question via
email from my client Sarah she asked me
a really interesting question comes up a
lot and I thought I’d deal with it in
this video how do you narrate an
audiobook passage that includes some
copy that set in italics so kind of
slanted text it’s a great question it’s
one of those questions it’s kind of like
asking what does the word bi-monthly
mean because it actually has a couple of
different meanings it can either mean
every other month or it can mean twice
in one month so bimonthly has kind of
like two meanings same word different
meanings and same thing with italics you
have italics can mean a couple of
different things usually when people
write and use italics they’re talking
about unspoken thoughts and what you do
with that is exactly what you would
think you lower your pitch you drop your
register and you project confidentially
as though you don’t want anybody else to
hear like how’s your coffee dear she
said that’s odd
he used sugar he never uses sugar is he
cheating on me right so notice that I
dropped my voice that was the the latter
half of that from that’s odd – is he
cheating on me was in italics and so
that’s one way to do that and you
basically do what you’ve seen on
television forever without the reverb
without the the added you know you know
change to the audio just in your
presentation make it confidential you’re
talking to yourself you don’t want
anybody else to hear sometimes people
use italics not for the unspoken
thoughts but to highlight or emphasize
something so same scene how’s your
coffee dear she said do you mean my
espresso it sucks he sneered
espresso was in italics there you had
like start of sarcasm emphasis it’s
still in italics but it’s in the
opposite direction of unspoken thoughts
right and you can take that even further
with italics if there is exclamation
points used same scene drink your coffee
dear she said drink it and drink it now
maybe the now was in italics in all caps
so those are the three main ways that
you would would narrate italics unspoken
thoughts emphasizing and then loudness
and then there’s one other thing
sometimes it’s not in in italics but in
parenthesis and they’re treated the same
way a subjunctive clause a separate
thought that supports what you’re
talking about so for example Williams
made the deposit that afternoon he was
already on his way to the liquor store
and the bank was conveniently next door
and made sure he put the tellers receipt
in his wallet so if that was in
parentheses that he was already on his
way to the liquor store and the bank was
conveniently next door you’re doing the
same thing you’re kind of talking to
yourself and you’re doing things like
hey I just like to give you this little
side note and all you do is adjust your
performance just a little bit to give
you that that off to the side feel like
hey here’s something you might be
interested in here’s why this happened
or here’s what you might want to know
else about this situation right so it’s
always kind of under the breath and a
change in pitch to a different note I’m
talking I’m talking I’m talking but this
stuff is in parentheses and then the
rest of the sentence continues from
there right so the pitch changes and and
that sort of thing it’s kind of like
when you’re doing dictation and you say
left paren right paren or a quote
unquote right so I hope that helps is
that something that you’ve thought about
and thought well that that makes sense
to me
or have you been puzzled by it let me
know in the comments below and let me
know if you have any other questions I’m
actually doing an AMA coming up for the
hundredth episode of these one-a-day
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that’s why we’re calling it an AMA thank
you reddit for making that part of the
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I mean the questions might be
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7 Responses to How To Voice Copy That’s Set In Italics

  1. Darla Middlebrook March 31, 2019 at 6:19 am #

    Thanks for the tips. I think I am doing these things, but it is nice to review. There have, however, been instances within the manuscript(s) I have received wherein the author is indicating a dream or nightmare or past experience with the italics. Could these instances be approached in the same manner? Or maybe I should should say, I hope they could. Because that is often what I do.

    • David H. Lawrence XVII March 31, 2019 at 2:28 pm #

      Yes, in exactly the same manner.

  2. Kirsten March 31, 2019 at 7:15 am #

    Do I treat text in quotations (other than conversations) the same way? For example if I were talking in person, I might use my hands to indicate “air quotes” …. how do I do that with my voice?

    • David H. Lawrence XVII March 31, 2019 at 2:29 pm #

      It depends on the situation, but not usually. Air quotes are usually more direct and energetic, just as you would say them in real life.

  3. Michael March 31, 2019 at 8:30 am #

    I’ve never thought about it, but wow. The changes in tone really make sense.

  4. Forris Day Jr March 31, 2019 at 2:15 pm #

    Great info as usuall. I never really thought about the italics as most of the books I read dont use them because they are more “how to” books, but I will remember this if I ever do a book with characters.

  5. Bob McCoy March 31, 2019 at 3:19 pm #

    I find the same thing when I’d reading bullet points. It may be lead by a sentence with a trailing colon. And the points tend to be sentence fragments. For me it tends to be a matter of pacing and fairliy consistent tonal inflection at the beginning of the bullet point. The pause at the end along with a different inflection should hopefully signal this is the end of that block.

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