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Handling a character’s internal dialogue or thoughts

LanaCastleSillySm_edited-1Dear Style Meister: How do you handle characters’ imaginings in a work of fiction? Do you place them in quotation marks? italicize them? or what? — Introspective Novelist

Dear Introspective: The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago) states that internal dialogue and thoughts are often placed within double quotation marks but may also be set in italics or in plain Roman type. Words into Type (WIT) leans toward italics, while acknowledging both quotation marks and Roman type as viable alternatives.

If you already have a publisher, follow their style preference unless you have a valid reason to do otherwise. As opposed to quotation marks, italics offer a clearer delineation between spoken and unspoken discourse. However, long segments of italics are difficult to read. Avoid italics if you use internal dialogue extensively. Both Chicago and WIT leave the choice up to the author but stress the importance of consistency within a single work.

My personal preference is to use Roman type if the context makes it clear that what you’re writing is a character’s thoughts.

1 comment

  1. Linda Judd

    I found your page on internal dialogue. It would be nice if you included some dialogue samples of your preference that you mention at the end of the article. Does your preference include any quotes? Any Italics? Please let me know. Thank you

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