aka: Emphasis Spam
We mean that—EVERYTHING!
This is an admitted Sub-Trope
of the Bad Writing Index
, but sometimes it's fun
You might find it hard to believe, but some
writers actually use way too much
emphasis in their descriptions! Using punctuation
and endless superlatives
, they exhaust
you by endlessly insisting THAT EVERYTHING THEY TELL YOU IS TOTALLY EPIC!!
You'll see a lot
of shouting on this very wiki
, but since the question of whether or not it's overdone is purely
subjective, what can you do? NOTHING!!
Overemphasis comes in many forms. The writer may be typing as though they were talking to you, and attempting to convey their excitement by yelling!
They might be using text-only formatting tricks like setting boxes aside, underlining and using different colors. Perhaps they insist use intense words like "incredible
" and "despicable
" when there's not much reason to. In any case, the effect is the same: you're left without a way to gauge how amazing or important things "really" are.
Remember this: when everything is emphasized nothing is
Related to Bold Inflation
and overlaps with This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!
when "bitch" comes every other sentence. It can also crop up when the character (or writer) is particularly enthusiastic
This can result in any one of the What Do You Mean, It's Not an Index?
tropes. When similar overemphasis is used in acting, the result is an enormous, ebullient Large Ham
!! See also Punctuated! For! Emphasis!
! for constrained emphasis.
open/close all folders
- Dan Green said in an interview (perhaps jokingly) that all of his lines in Yu-Gi-Oh! were written in ALL CAPS with bold for EVEN MORE EMPHASIS!
- Dan Green has actually advised to avoid this, since "if everything is at level 10, nothing stands out."
- It was a convention in some comic strips to use exclamation points at the end of every sentence. This tradition reportedly began because with the older, fairly coarse four color printing process, it was easy for a tiny dot like a period to be lost, but some of an exclamation point would survive! (Letters would also sometimes be joined by stray ink: writers were advised not to use the verb "flick" or name a character "Clint", lest the l and i run together and violate the Comics Code inadvertently!) Serials such as Mary Worth, Apartment 3G, Rex Morgan MD and Mark Trail are known for this, as well as Archie comics and many others.
- Mainstream comic books tend to do this with bold text. It's actually very strange and no one seems to know why it happens. Possibly, it's intended to highlight the key (i.e., plot relevant) words in the character's speech, and has nothing to do with how the characters are talking. That way the readers, if they want to get to the guys in colored tights beating on each other, can skim more easily. That doesn't make it any less weird for someone who isn't used to reading comics. Linkara loves to point out this, as reading speech balloons aloud (sometimes, as dramatically as possible) is obligatory for his reviews.
- Often (though not always) the emphasized words are those that one would expect to be stressed slightly more in natural-sounding speech: "His power ... I've never seen anything like it!" Using bold text does come across as a bit overly dramatic and italic would probably be better, but a lot of letterers produce "normal" text that's already slanted significantly from the vertical, so that italic doesn't stand out as much.
- A lot of words you wouldn't expect to be italicized are anyway in Watchmen.
- Averted with Rorschach who speaks with no italics or bold. His voice is described by other characters though as being a creepy, gravel-y monotone
- The original dead tree edition of ElfQuest #5 suffered a lot from overuse of bold text and double exclamation points!! Fan complaints led to it being toned down in all subsequent editions.
- In MAD, words are bolded apparently at random. Might be a parody of comic books as a genre.
- Attention true believers! Emphasis is a signature element in the writing of Stan Lee!
- Much seen in old Superman comics, where every mention of Superman or any of his super-powers is given super-emphasis.
- Frank Miller, once he sank into his self-parody phase, fell into this.
- It makes a certain kind of sense for Shazam, seeing as the very title is an exclamation.
- Jack Chick tends to have a problem with this, which just adds to how incredibly anvilicious his tracts are.
- In one tract, the Voice of God speaks, but the previous pages contained so much Emphasize EVERYTHING that it actually detracts from how impressive God's voice seems. Probably not the effect he was going for.
- Donald Duck comic books have a tendency to not contain a single speech bubble without at least one exclamation mark. Yes, even whispering ends with "!" Which makes it jarring when the rare dotted sentence shows up.
- Secret Wars is particularly noted for this. It's a 12-issue series, and there are fewer than fifteen sentences that end with a period in the whole thing. (We're not counting ellipses...)
- Pretty much everything listed under World of Ham probably overlaps with this trope to at least some extent. Particularly 300.
- One can grow weary of The Lord of the Rings trilogy's habit of using a constant mix of slow-motion, CGI, sweeping pans and a thunderous soundtrack to make everything seem epic. Notoriously led to Ending Fatigue at the end of the third film.
- The book Antigua: The Land of Fairies Wizards and Heroes, mentioned on So Bad, It's Good, falls into that category largely because of this. More recent printings have been edited to use more sensible punctuation, but in the Amazon preview for the original version, every other sentence or so ended in an exclamation point.
- There are a lot of italics in the novelization of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. From the same author, Traitor and Shatterpoint are equally italics-heavy, although only in some sections. Since one book's protagonist is undergoing a drug-and-torture fueled religious experience, and the other is in a Whole Plot Reference to Heart of Darkness, it is perhaps understandable.
- Terry Pratchett very occasionally veers into this territory. He'll make an ironic observation which isn't that mind-blowing, but he'll write it in italics to make it seem like it is.
- Media in American Gods is fond of overusing italics. This is intentional, as narrator Shadow takes special notice of the fact that the New Gods at large talk in cliches and unrealistic speech patterns.
- Matthew Reilly has a tendency to italicise too many verbs during the action sequences that take up the bulk of his novels.
- Lord Peter Wimsey's assistant Miss Climpson likes to emphasize everything with italics in her letters. Since they usually only take up a few pages, it's more of a character quirk than an annoyance.
- Dave Barry in Cyberspace has some chapters parodying reference manuals which add emphasis to all technical terms. Since the book is a parody, the emphasized terms include "Planet Gazombo" and "zucchini."
- Older English editions of The Bible emphazised certain words in every sentence, probably because the editors intended the text to be read out loud.
- It's possible this is true for some versions, but the King James Version uses italics for a very different purpose: to mark words added during translation that weren't present in the original. Usually this is done because English grammar is sufficiently different from Hebrew/Greek grammar that additional words are needed to clarify the meaning.
Live Action TV!!!
- In an episode of Seinfeld, Elaine, working as an editor, goes overboard on the exclamation points. This overlaps with Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma.
- Almost everything on the History Channel. Ominous music, tragic tales of the man who was never listened to, and of course, the ever-present deep-voiced narrator.
- What about certain presenters - Jeremy Clarkson, for instance, really likes to put emphasis on almost every word. Oddly enough, Andrew Marr shares this habit.
- As noted by many at the time, David Harewood's performance as Tuck in Robin Hood was-marred-by-his-odd-insistence of speaking-very-quickly during all-of-his-lines and putting-an-emphasis on the-very-last-word of each-sentence. Needless-to-say, it-got-very-annoying.
- The Daleks of Doctor Who emphasize every individual syllable of every word they say, without exception.
- The magazine boot (predecesor to Maximum PC) had an IRATE letter to the EDITOR saying that it was the first and last issue he reads because boot BOLDFACES every third WORD. The reply: You CAN'T win them ALL, Clark.
- This can be said about Christina Aguilera, whose habit of reminding the listener that she has a big, loud singing voice often drowns out the meaning of the song she's trying to sing.
- This is staple trope of several forms of Punk and Metal in which screaming or growling is the dominating vocal technique. At extreme cases the growling sounds like whispering and the distorted guitars sound like TV static.
- Opera, especially Wagner & Verdi.
- Ludwig van Beethoven was a great offender, especially when emphasizing the end of certain symphonies. His fifth symphony screams exclamation when he ends it with a smashing final chord. And then he ends it again. And yet another time...
- Eric Satie parodied this in one of his piano pieces, that seemingly had to finish no less than five times in different ways.
- Aaron William's works (Nodwick, Ps238), for otherwise exceptional series, can often feature uncomfortable amounts of this.
- Many sparks in Girl Genius talk like this.
- The dialogue in Dominic Deegan is filled with bolded words. Sometimes it's there to make sure that readers don't miss the puns, but most of the time it's downright random.
- In over ten years of Gene Catlow, there are maybe two sentences that don't end in either an exclamation point, a question mark, or an ellipsis. This can make the frequent exposition frustrating to read, especially on an Archive Binge.
- Karkat from Homestuck CONSTANTLY TYPES IN ALL CAPS NO MATTER WHAT HE'S SAYING. This is likely deliberate on his part, representing how PISSED OFF AT ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING HE IS, PRETTY MUCH CONSTANTLY.
TV Tropes and Meta!!!
- As mentioned, many descriptions on the TV Tropes wiki itself fall into this. It's one of the hallmarks of That Troper.
- Our late I Am Not Making This Up section was an epic emphasis spam, not only in grammatical terms but by its very existence. It was a place that everyone could go to underscore how amazing/bizarre/hilarious events from entertainment could be, and, well, everything ended up underscored.
- Any sufficiently enthusiastic fandom will sprinkle exclamation points and italics here or there, especially when the work in question involves a lot of yelling. The italics seem to come out for particularly brutal or extreme actions, though things that might be intense in one fandom won't even register in another.
- Often crops up in Fan Fiction of course, but what aspect of bad writing doesn't?
- One can find Emphasis Spam in all its forms, including bold, italic, coloured text, different fonts, repeated letters (including letters that represent sounds that are hard if not impossible to extend, or that are silent) and multiple exclamation marks.
- Tropes Are Not Bad example: Forward is notorious for depicting resident Cloud Cuckoolander River's thoughts with "Riverthink", consisting of randomly-placed italics, bold, underlining, and sudden switches to centered or right-aligned text.
- Magazine covers are covered with bold, allegedly attention-grabbing exclamations, but on the rack, they're lost in a sea of punctuation marks and multicolored 30-point font.
- Many ideological tracts, especially those published by the more extreme fringes. See Jack Chick for links to some of the tamer examples.
- And speaking of nuts, Time Cube and most of its parodies.