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First Contact ...

When you begin a story it’s like greeting a first contact tribe. You need to establish a common means of communication early in the relationship.

Yes, of course, you and I speak English, so that seems a ridiculous statement. But each writer has their literary style and grammatical quirks. The differences between what the writer says and what the reader hears may be subtle, but they are, nevertheless, important. The writer needs inform the reader what these are at the earliest opportunity. (And thereafter be consistent in their usage.)

Italicised text is a big case in point. Do you italicise to represent internal dialogue, the subject’s unspoken thoughts? Do you italicise within dialogue for emphasis? For foreign terms? For place names? All of the above. Do you use and en dash, an em dash or both, and do you allow a character before and after, or not? Single (UK English) or double (US English) speech marks? Do you have a dinkus between section breaks, or not? Use of ellipses, and so on …

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