Use Italics for Emphasis

If you wish to emphasize a word or to show that a person emphasized a word in dialogue, italicize that word.

Controversial film director John Waters has many talents, including the ability to give an entertaining pitch to people who may invest money that he can use to make his movies. Once he wrote a screenplay about a skinhead invasion of a community, and he pitched it to Dawn Steel of Disney, who listened to him, then joked, “Well, sure, when I heard ‘skinheads,’ I thought Disney!” Mr. Waters says, “She knew that they weren’t going to do it, but I give an entertaining pitch, so she took the meetings anyway.”

While filming Some Like It Hot, Marilyn Monroe frequently had trouble remembering even the simplest lines. For example, in one scene she was supposed to open a drawer and say, “Where’s the bourbon?” However, she blew the line in take after take. Therefore, director Billy Wilder ordered that the line be pasted in the drawer so she could read it. In the very next take, Ms. Monroe opened the wrong drawer—so Mr. Wilder ordered that the line be pasted in every drawer

Buster Keaton was a hard-working comedian. Garry Moore once asked Buster how he was able to perform his pratfalls, and Buster said, “I’ll show you.” Then he showed Mr. Moore the bruises on his body. Mr. Moore later said, “So that’s how he did it—it hurt—but you had to care enough not to care.

Dahlia Messick wanted to be a cartoonist, but she noticed that when she took her artwork around to the studios that the male decision-makers would only briefly look at her artwork but would ask her out to lunch. Therefore, she adopted the gender-neutral name Dale Messick and started mailing her artwork to studios. Eventually, she created the very successful comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter.

MAD publisher William M. Gaines used to take the MAD writers and artists on a trip every year or two. One year, he took everybody to Rome, and they visited the Sistine Chapel, where a tour guide informed them that Michelangelo had spent 15 years painting the ceiling. MAD writer Dick DeBartolo explained why: “Yeah, but it was two coats!”

In 1895, African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar wanted to publish his first book of poems, but the publishing house of the religious organization United Brethren declined to do that unless he could give them $125 or had “ample security” for the money. Back then, $125 was a lot of money, and Mr. Dunbar had neither that much money nor ample security for that much money. Fortunately, the business manager of the company, William Blacher, saw how dejected Mr. Dunbar looked, and so he gave his personal guarantee to the company that the $125 would be repaid; therefore, Mr. Dunbar’s book of poetry—Oak and Ivy—was printed. Also fortunately, a number of Mr. Dunbar’s friends from high school gave him their support. Mr. Dunbar personally sold copies of his book at work and to friends, and two weeks after receiving the copies of his book, he was able to give the publishing house the $125 he owed it. After all, he had sold all of the copies of his book!

The Nebraska Cornhuskers were losing a game, so coach Bernie Masterson sent in a sub with the orders, “Get in there and play as you’ve never played before.” Unfortunately, the sub promptly fumbled twice. Mr. Masterson pulled him out of the game and told him, “Perhaps you misunderstood me. I didn’t say play as though you’ve never played before.”

Margot Fonteyn and the Sadler’s Wells Ballet once gave a disastrous performance on the slippery floor of Constitution Hall in front of President Harry Truman. Dancers came out on the stage, slipped and fell, and then, after the dance, with tears streaming from their eyes, returned to their dressing rooms, saying, “It’s impossible. I just couldn’t stand up.” Ms. Fonteyn was filled with confidence and thought, “That won’t happen to me,” but she too ended up falling on her face.

Before World War II, Lucy Carrington Wertheimer ran an art gallery that concentrated on the work of then-modern artists. Often, she heard only criticism of these artists’ works, although many of them became well-known and well-respected artists later. One late afternoon, after she had heard nothing but criticism all day, a couple of tourists dropped into her gallery and made very admiring remarks about the works of art, although unfortunately they had no money with which to buy them. Ms. Wertheim was so happy to hear their positive comments—especially about a picture by Kolle that they admired—that she gave it to them: “Please have it. Please take it away with you. Do go on enjoying it.”

Danny Newman did PR for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he greatly appreciated subscribers—much more than he appreciated single-ticket buyers. One day, his office got a telephone call from a woman who thought that she had lost a diamond ring in the auditorium—although she might have lost it on the way either to or from the performance. Mr. Newman knew that soon the clean-up crew would arrive with powerful vacuums that would suck up the diamond ring—if it were in the auditorium. Therefore, he went to the dark auditorium with a flashlight. He didn’t see the diamond ring around the woman’s seat, but thinking that it might have been kicked by audience members down the raked floor, he kept looking. Fortunately, the diamond gleamed in the light cast by his flashlight, and he was able to return the diamond ring to the woman, telling her, “Here at Lyric we’ll do anything for our subscribers!” The woman and her husband made a large donation to the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Some audience members talk way too much during viewings at movie theaters. During the showing of the Star Trek: The Next Generation movie tilted First Contact, a man kept talking, so a 10-year-old Star Trek fan turned around in her seat and asked him, “Jerk, can you spell ‘Prime Directive’?”

Note: Use italics for the titles of TV series and movies in academic writing.

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