View Full Version : Question About Word Emphasis

09-20-2013, 05:56 AM
So, I read a lot of comics. That might be redundant on this board, but still: What are the rules for bolding words in a script?

I personally find bolding words that shouldn't be read with actual emphasis to be extremely distracting and at least a little bit annoying, a good example being from the recent Uncanny X-Force, though it is a common thing.


I read parts of that as people placing TONS of emphasis: "I can SORT HIM OUT and then we--" then "We have an obligation to inform CABLE and HOPE!" It reads weird if you actually read that with emphasis. No one talks the way the word bolding implies they are talking.

So, let me get to the root of my concern here:
Firstly, it makes it seem the characters are talking in an extremely unnatural fashion for sake of visual interest.

Secondly, I understand that there is an art to lettering and I very much respect it, but I feel like this sort of word emphasis is undermining the writer to an extent in that it very much decides on a tone and sentence pacing that the letterer decided rather than the writer. Is this acceptable? Why? If the emphasis is not in the script and does not flow with natural human language, how does it help? Is the suggestion that people are apt to miss words?

Anyway, I'd really like some clarity on this since over-bolding drives me insane as a reader and gives me a lot of artistic concerns as a writer and letterer (in training).

09-20-2013, 08:23 AM
Word bolding is almost always indicated by the *writer*, in the script, and there are no rules about it. But it's usually the letterer's decision to punch up those extra bold words for effect. (Like "NO!" in the last panel.)


Thomas Mauer
09-20-2013, 08:24 AM
This isn't undermining the writer (or editor) because what you see is what they specifically asked for and/or approved. There are a lot of writers who'll trust a letterer to use there instincts about bolding, but there are also those who want you to stick to the script no matter what. I suppose this is more true of lettering for Marvel and DC than creator owned comics, but it's happening.

Basically, the writer most likely bolded the way he heard the sentence cadence in his head while writing/polishing. It would be a good idea to speak dialogue aloud to find out if it actually works, but even that can lead to problems.

Personally I prefer to bold only when necessary. Novelists don't need to show emphasis, so why should comics writers? They're both writing dialogue. If what they write works, there's no need.

A few of the writers I work with don't bold at all and leave it up to me whether to put in some emphasis or not. There's also the other way around where I strip out most emphases to reign it in.

Bolding names has never made much sense to me when they're not stressed while speaking. To make some names stand out (like a company name or the name of a ship for example) I prefer using italics. They're less intrusive and get the job done too.

Best advice, if it bothers you, talk to your writer or editor about the bolding. It's possible that they don't realize they're overdoing it, so a different set of eyes will often be appreciated.

09-20-2013, 11:08 AM
Thanks for the info, guys, really!

I decided to go look up some scripts after reading your responses (no idea why I figured it'd be the letterer to do it, I guess I just figured the emphasis was insane but sort of visually made sense) and they are INSANE. Read a couple of Matt Fraction and Geoff Johns scripts and they are lousy with weird underlines that make ZERO sense when read aloud. What the hell is wrong with these guys?

Anyway! Thanks for clearing that up for me. My trust in the manly, wonderful nature of letterers at large has been restored!

L Jamal
09-20-2013, 11:10 AM
As a letterer, I never introduce anything to the script that's not indicated by the writer. I make no edits even if what presented is grammatically incorrect or misspelled. You get what you give me.

I'm also in the unique position where I am sometimes the editor for comics that I letter, so in those cases, I will change things as I letter them to make it flow better and emphasize things that weren't before. However, when I do, I'm acting as the editor and not the letterer.

Finally, I create my own comics where it's just me (www.ungoodwise.com). When I'm working on my own comic, I'm very careful about word emphasis and phrasing. While doing that, the writer and artist is making the changes for the letter to implement.

Ultimately, my letterer (me) implements the changes that the other hats that I wear dictate. Sometimes, it makes it hard when I'm not working on my own projects as I see ways to make it better, but I restrain myself from doing so unless I've been given permission to do so. Jobs where I've been given the permission to make changes generally pay better, so I'm more likely to be willing to make changes that I may have to undo later.

09-20-2013, 11:58 AM
I correct basic grammar and misspellings as I letter.

In my view, you can do it now, or you can do it after the Editor/proofreaders catch it during corrections -- but you'll end up doing it either way.

Easier to take the 3 seconds to add a comma right then while you're looking at it, than having to open the file, find it, and correct it, later.


L Jamal
09-20-2013, 12:36 PM
I had one client that didn't use commas in the entire script. So when talking to Mary it was "Mary go over there." instead of "Mary, go over there." It was like that for the entire script. I suggested that she hire an editor to correct the script. She said letter it as written. 2 months later, she hired an editor and I was billing the client to add the commas to the previously lettered pages. That job was a nightmare and then they came back and did the SAME thing with the next issue.

Todd Klein
09-20-2013, 01:44 PM
Bolding for emphasis can definitely be overdone, and often is. Reading it aloud is the best test. Some scripts I get have no bolds, and I add them only where I'm sure they're necessary or important.