Internal Dialogue: Italics or Quotes?



Internal dialogue is used by authors to indicate what a character is thinking.

Direct internal dialogue refers to a character thinking the exact thoughts as written, often in the first person. (The first person singular is I, the first person plural is we.)

Example: “I lied,” Charles thought, “but maybe she will forgive me.”

Notice that quotation marks and other punctuation are used as if the character had spoken aloud.

You may also use italics without quotation marks for direct internal dialogue.

Example: I lied, Charles thought, but maybe she will forgive me.

Indirect internal dialogue refers to a character expressing a thought in the third person (the third person singular is he or she, the plural is they) and is not set off with either italics or quotation marks.

Example: Bev wondered why Charles would think that she would forgive him so easily.

The sense of the sentence tells us that she did not think these exact words.

Posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008, at 4:47 am

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225 Comments on Internal Dialogue: Italics or Quotes?

225 responses to “Internal Dialogue: Italics or Quotes?”

  1. delaney says:

    what if you are telling the story and its past tense but then the internal dialoge becomes present tense of what you thought at that time? do you make a new paragragh everytime you use ihte internal dialoge as well?

  2. leah says:

    What if I’m using italics but not using a proper pronoun (with no obvious capitalization), and my thought ends in punctuation other than a comma? Do I leave the pronoun lowercased, as I would if it were in quotes? Or do I capitalize it?

    For example, which would be correct (picture the thoughts in italics, if the HTML doesn’t process):

    What is that? she thought.

    or

    What is that? She thought.

    I can’t seem to find this type of example anywhere, and I’ve run into it several times with my historical fiction novel I’m writing! Thanks for your help!

  3. Michelle says:

    What about POV. In first person you would do neither, correct.

    Ex: I can’t believe he said that. What am I going to do now?

  4. Duncan says:

    I will concede either/or only insomuch that it may apply differently between MLA and novelization, but italics are still the acceptable form moreso than quotation marks, yes?

    • There seems to be quite a difference of opinion on this subject. According to The Chicago Manual of Style (13.41), “Thought, imagined dialogue, and other interior discourse may be enclosed in quotation marks or not, according to the context or the writer’s preference.” They do not even mention the use of italics. Also, AP Stylebook says, “So, is an unspoken thought always worthy of quotation marks? Writer’s choice on that.” We would not say that one is more acceptable than the other.

  5. bigsonny says:

    So what if you’re writing from a 1st person POV. How do you distinguish between internal dialogue and simply giving an opinion.

    For instance:

    I looked around this scene and thought that everyone was caught in a suspended reality…

    vs.

    I thought “how creepy”

    vs

    My room was bare. I had always wondered what they said about me. Did I lack essence?

    How do I format each?

    • In your first sentence, the word that indicates that it is not actual internal dialogue.
      I looked around this scene and thought that everyone was caught in a suspended reality…

      If it were actual internal dialogue, the sentence would be written like this:
      I looked around this scene and thought, “Everyone was caught in a suspended reality…” OR
      I looked around this scene and thought, Everyone was caught in a suspended reality…

      Your second and third sentences are both examples of internal dialogue since they are the exact thoughts of the character.
      I thought, “How creepy.” OR I thought How creepy.
      “My room was bare,” I thought. “I had always wondered what they said about me. Did I lack essence?” OR
      My room was bare I thought. I had always wondered what they said about me. Did I lack essence?

      If they were not internal dialogue they would be written like this:
      I thought that it was creepy.
      I thought that my room was bare. I had always wondered what they said about me. Did I lack essence?

      • bigsonny says:

        So just to drive the point home. As an author, I find myself unsure of the proper format when I write from a first person POV because I am developing a character who is omniscient while also having the first person POV. So while third person Omniscient POV is common, the first person POV isn’t…as far I know. While I don’t mind breaking the rules (if it’s uncommon), I want to make sure that I format the text properly so that I may guide the reader as logically as possible.

        As such, If I take myself to be the first person, then, every statement is technically my thought. As such, I created rules to differentiate between my thoughts, my dialogue and my description of what I am calling objects (So non-thinking entities in the story (eg. anything from a table, a room, an action,etc…).

        The issue presents itself when a table is described as “a beautiful table which perfectly complemented the room for instance.” This is technically my opinion and also an observation. I am unsure how to proceed there.

        Any ideas or existing rules that I can follow?

        • As an author it is up to you whether to choose quotation marks or italics for internal dialogue. Whether it’s first or third person, just make sure you only use them when it is the individual’s exact words or thoughts. Overuse of quotation marks or italics can be distracting to the reader. We recommend that you try not to overthink the situation. If you have a writing instructor, perhaps he or she can provide some guidance and feedback if you are having concerns.

      • Kight says:

        I’m writing “The child covered her face, thinking, ‘If I can’t see you, you can’t see me.’ ” Lowercase or capitalized “if”?

  6. Pam says:

    I can’t find the rule for punctuation after the word ‘said’. Can you give me the rule, if there is one. Thanks

    • The word said can appear in either an indirect or direct quotation. An indirect quotation is a paraphrase of someone else’s words and does not require any punctuation. An example of this is She said that she would be available to start work next week.
      In a direct quotation the word said is followed by a comma as in the following sentence: At the end of the ceremony she said, “Congratulations!”
      If the word said is the last word in a sentence, it could also be followed by a period, exclamation point, or a question mark. For example: We could not hear what she said. Did you hear what she said? We did not hear what you said!

  7. Randy Lynn says:

    Rule 16
    Use commas to introduce or interrupt direct quotations shorter than three lines.
    Examples:
    He actually said, “I do not care.”
    “Why,” I asked, “do you always forget to do it?”

    I found the above examples on the COMMAS page
    https://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asphttps://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asp

    Note: The quotation marks to open and the quotation marks to close appear to be facing in the same direction.

    • Throughout our website, we have used “straight” quotation marks, i.e., in normal typeface they are vertical (just like the quotation marks in this sentence). The quotation marks you have pointed out are in a passage that is in italic type, therefore, the quotation marks are at the same slant as the italic type, e.g., “straight.” According to Wikipedia, “straight” or “ambidextrous” quotation marks were introduced on typewriters to reduce the number of keys on the keyboard, and were inherited by computer keyboards and character sets.”

      Since the hard copy of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation also contains only straight quotation marks, we would like to stay consistent on the website. However, when we proceed to print the next edition, we will be looking into converting to the more formal opening and closing quotation marks, also known as “typographic” or “curly” quotation marks.

  8. Nancy says:

    How do I create italicized emphasis with sentences/phrases within an entire paragraph that is already italicized because it is first person dialogue.

    For example:

    I was walking by the bar when an attractive gray-haired man said, “Hey, young lady, don’t I know you?” This old man is hitting on me, I thought.

    This paragraph is italicized for dialogue; how to I emphacize/punctuate the thought: He’s hitting on me, do I italicize or not?

    • The entire paragraph should not be italicized, only the exact thoughts of the person.

      I was walking by the bar when an attractive gray-haired man said, “Hey, young lady, don’t I know you?” This old man is hitting on me, I thought.

      • George says:

        This is precisely the sort of thing I’d like to use to bring a greater sense of immediacy to that moment. I’d like to have some rule to judge by in choosing which would be internal narrative and which internal thought. Do you have any opinion on the matter?

        • Sorry, but we have no advice other than our response to Nancy of June 8, 2012. You may be able to obtain more specific guidance by consulting a reference book on writing fiction and dialogue or by taking a creative writing course at a local college.

  9. Jeannie says:

    I am REALLY struggling with point of view and internal dialogue. Could you recommend something to help me master it?

    I feel like I can’t move forward because I get so confused when I start to write.

  10. Carol says:

    Can you please take a look at the italicized internal dialogue and capitalization here? I italicized: hi, Lena. Over here, Lena.

    I watch as Jae toddles from one kid to another. He gives each one a hug around the knees. I stand in the doorway. I wait for someone to say, hi, Lena. Over here, Lena.
    I feel small.

    • The first word in your internal dialoge should be capitalized.
      I watch as Jae toddles from one kid to another. He gives each one a hug around the knees. I stand in the doorway. I wait for someone to say, Hi, Lena. Over here, Lena. I feel small.

  11. Jack says:

    How do i type in italics? Im a little new to the whole “Typing” thing.

    • In many programs, such as Microsoft Word, there should be a slanted I at the top of the page. Click the symbol and the letters will be italicized. Click the symbol again to return to normal type. If you are using a different program and you do not see the slanted I for italics, you can click “Help” or perform an internet search.

  12. Max says:

    Hi Jane.

    I was taught that direct thoughts were to be written in italics not quotes. This helps distinguish them (as they’re quite different).

    Are you sure that quotes are used? Doesn’t this introduce a potential for unnecessary confusion, as readers don’t know it’s thought not speech until they reach the “she thought” tag?

    Max

    • Our blog Internal Dialogue: Italics or Quotes? says, “You may also use italics without quotation marks for direct internal dialogue.” Either quotes or italics can be used. We would not say that one is more acceptable than the other. As an author it is up to you to decide which one to use. If you feel that italics makes your sentence less “confusing,” you can use italics.

  13. Jen says:

    I have a question about capitalization. Would you capitalize the first word in a thought when it comes in the middle of a sentence and is italicized?

    For instance: I thought, What should I do now?
    Or should it be: I thought, what should I do now?

    Thanks!

  14. Steve says:

    Can you really call a discussion with oneself a dialogue?

    • That is an interesting thought. “Internal dialogue” is a fairly common term when referring to what is being thought rather than said; probably relating the term more to the sense of an exchange of ideas or opinions rather than an exchange between two people. “Internal dialogue” would probably be a more accurate description if a person is really debating opposing positions, thoughts, alternatives, etc. with oneself. Otherwise, “internal monologue” may really be more accurate.

  15. Vanessa says:

    When editing thoughts, imagined dialogue, internal monologues, and interior dialogue, is it better to keep the text within the same paragraph as the narrative (or direct discourse), or will it have more impact when formatted as a separate paragraph?

  16. M says:

    Lot of varying thought on this with a number of people thinking it’s not necessary to italicise thoughts. I wonder, however, if there’s a difference between a thought which is in first or third person. ie.

    he thought, I never should have told her that. (Should this be italicised?)

    or

    He never should have told her that. (It’s implied it’s his thought, so does it need to be italicised?)

    or, in the case of a thought in third person, in order to avoid italics, does it really need the tag: He thought, he never should have told her that.

    I always thought that, when writing in third person, who was doing the thinking could be implied without italics and without a tag like ‘he thought’, so italics could be saved for special emphasis. Or should a ‘he thought’ tag always be introduced at the beginning to establish the POV.
    What are your thoughts on this?

    • The exact thoughts of a character are generally considered a direct quotation, requiring quotation marks, although italics are also used by some. It’s the same with a character expressing a thought in third person. Therefore:

      I (or He) thought, “I never should have told her that.” OR
      I (or He) thought, I never should have told her that. OR
      I (or He) thought I (or he) never should have told her that.

  17. Billy says:

    What about implied dialogue? For instance:

    I wanted to say yes but instead said, “No.” Does yes get placed in quotes or italicized.

    Another Example:

    She’d be so thrilled that hugs and kisses and theatrical than-you’s would surely rain down upon me. Does thank-you’s get placed within quotes or italicized?

    • In sentences like your first example, the yes and the no in the expressions say yes and say no usually do not require quotation marks or italics.

      The noun thank-you in your second example is not part of any dialogue. Therefore, “thank-yous” requires no special punctuation. There is no apostrophe in the plural thank-yous.

      I wanted to say yes but instead said no.
      She’d be so thrilled that hugs and kisses and theatrical thank-yous would surely rain down upon me.

  18. Courtney says:

    What would you use if you said something like..

    Then you think, What is happening right now?

    You think, oh maybe if I get this done I’ll get some sleep.

    etc.

    • There are no universally agreed-upon rules about internal dialogue. So it is up to the author whether to write these sentences as you have them or choose quotation marks or italics for the words after “think.” Use a comma after words such as oh or well or hey that introduce a sentence. Also, use a comma after the dependent clause “oh maybe if I get this done” in your second sentence. When a quote is a complete sentence, it is customary to capitalize the first word. So to sum up, we would revise your sentences as follows:

      Then you think, “What is happening right now?”
      You think, “Oh, maybe if I get this done, I’ll get some sleep.”
      OR
      Then you think, What is happening right now?
      You think, Oh, maybe if I get this done, I’ll get some sleep.

  19. cynthia-E says:

    Dear Ma’am,
    Your hints have been very helpful. I am a writer whose first book was published bY a publisher in New York. I later discovered that I was never edited before publication. I had taken for granted that they would do that. I spoke to them about it but they asked me to do it myself but my busy schedules have not allowed me do that. I am writing to ask if you would like to assist me with this: re-editing for republishing.
    Thanks,
    Cynthia-E

    • We are flattered by your request, but our own enterprises do not allow us sufficient time for your project. On our website, we do make a recommendation of an editing service, and there are many more capable editors out there who could do a good job for you.

  20. Matt says:

    When expressing thought in italics, how can I emphasize a certain word that I would normally use italics to do so? I can’t simply choose to use quotations instead because I would have to change the whole book, nor do I want to underline because I have been using italics the whole book for emphasis.

    For example:
    “He was not going to get the best of me,” she thought.

    Or

    He was not going to get the best of me, she thought.

    (“not” being emphasized)

    Also, when writing in third person subjective, does one have to put a tag like “she thought” before or after internal dialogue when the there is only one character with internal dialogue throughout the entire novel? To use my first example:

    He was not going to get the best of me.

    Thank you in advance. You are great.

    • If you’re already using italics and do not wish to underline, you could show emphasis by printing the word in roman. Your only other option would be to use boldface type to emphasize a certain word. Regarding writing “she thought,” as a writer it is your choice as far as wording and style is concerned. Just make sure the reader is not confused.

  21. Denise says:

    Great post, and thanks for commenting back on all the queries you get!

  22. Tammy says:

    When a character is remembering a conversation in his head, with a character who has since deceased, would that conversation have quotes for dialogue or italics?

    • You are describing internal dialogue. Internal dialogue is used by authors to indicate what a character is thinking to himself or herself. Quotation marks and other punctuation are used in the same way as if the character had spoken aloud. Use of italics for internal dialogue is also acceptable. It is up to the author to decide between quotation marks and italics. There are no rules here, just conventions and tendencies. For instance, if an author wanted to convey internal dialogue by using all capitals, or a different font, who’s to say that would be unacceptable?

  23. Brooks says:

    How exactly would I go about punctuating this sentence when using italics to represent the internal dialogue?

    Why did he have to call me in here at quitting time on a Friday?, he thought to himself.

    The question mark followed immediately by a comma looks wrong to me. Would quotes be more applicable here? Thanks in advance!

    • The comma after the question mark is unnecessary. Either italics or quotes is fine.

      Why did he have to call me in here at quitting time on a Friday? he thought to himself. OR

      “Why did he have to call me in here at quitting time on a Friday?” he thought to himself.

  24. Richard says:

    What about writing a series of idea heard but not necesarily attributed? I want to write about 5 different sentences heard by the main character from a random group of people.

    • Unless the sentences are exact quotes or thoughts, they are indirect and are not set off with either italics or quotation marks.

      Examples:
      Sam wondered why the club members would think that he lost his job.
      Sam heard one of the members say, “I think Sam lost his job.”

  25. Bobbi says:

    Great info. Here’s my twist on it.
    The bulk of my story is first person narrative (memoir).
    Events are followed by my thoughts about the event, in italics.
    Within those thoughts, I include prayer.
    ie.
    I know it’s the dementia talking, but I don’t know how much longer I can stand this. Lord, is it okay to back off for awhile? Help me know what to do.
    Can this whole statement be in italics, or should the second and third sentences be in quotes?

    • Since it is all internal dialogue, it can be italicized. Also note the correct spelling of a while.

      I know it’s the dementia talking, but I don’t know how much longer I can stand this. Lord, is it okay to back off for a while? Help me know what to do.

  26. Chrissy says:

    When you want to write dialogue, do you start a whole new paragraph? If you do, do you continue your story in a new paragraph? Also, do you have any tips for writing in the time of 20 minutes?

    • If the dialogue is relevant to the topic of the paragraph, you do not need to start a new paragraph. After the dialogue, if the speaker or the subject changes, you should begin a new paragraph. The phrase “20 minutes” can also be written “twenty minutes.” If you choose to use a numeral, you should be consistent throughout your story. If a sentence begins with “twenty minutes,” do not use a numeral.

  27. Dina says:

    What if the dialogue is supposed and comes from a pet? My example is:

    Chunk (a dog) lifted his brows at Ramone as if to ask, Is that all you got?

    Obviously, a dog cannot speak, and some may argue it cannot think-in human terms, that is. How should I punctuate this?

    • Imagined dialogue is treated the same way as internal dialogue. It is the same for a person, pet, or fictional character. Therefore, you can use quotation marks or italics.

      Chunk lifted his brows at Ramone as if to ask, “Is that all you got?” OR
      Chunk lifted his brows at Ramone as if to ask, Is that all you got?

      There are also some writers who would write it exactly as you did.

  28. KC says:

    What about punctuation marks within internal dialogue that I’ve shown as italics? Do the periods, commas, question/exclamation marks and quotes stay italicized? It’s a subtle difference, but should the last punctuation mark in the thought remain italicized or not?

  29. alexandria says:

    What if a character is thinking about a word/words another character has said/did say to them?

    ALSO, what would I do with the ‘s’ at the end of each word below?

    Ex: He liked her for her youses, y’alls and youse alls.

    (The character is Southern!)

    • If you are using quotation marks with direct internal dialogue, use single quotation marks inside double quotation marks when you have a quotation within a quotation.

      “How can Sandy be serious about breaking up? It seems like just yesterday that she said, ‘I love you,’ ” Fred thought.

      If you are using italics, use quotation marks around the words quoted by the other character.

      How can Sandy be serious about breaking up? It seems like just yesterday that she said, “I love you,” Fred thought.

      If it is indirect internal dialogue, use quotation marks around the words quoted by the other character.

      Fred thought about the time that Sandy said, “I love you.”

      You do not need to do anything with the “s” endings in your non-standard words, however, when a word or term is not used functionally but is referred to as the word or term itself, it is either italicized or enclosed in quotation marks.

      He liked her for her youses, y’alls, and youse alls. OR

      He liked her for her “youses,” “y’alls,” and “youse alls.”

  30. Amber says:

    What if the story I’m writing is in first person and two characters are talking and one starts telling a story about something that happened in the past. Like a flashback, but also there are other characters speaking inside of the dialogue. Would I use single quotation marks?

    • If one character is speaking about events that happened in the past and is quoting other characters, use single quotation marks inside double quotation marks for the other characters. Example:

      I told my husband, “Last week when I saw George, he said, ‘I had four job interviews last week!’ ” Then I added, “And later I talked to Frank who said, ‘I had two interviews at the same company and hope to hear back soon.’ “

  31. Yamuna says:

    Do I use quotation marks in the following internal dialogue as shown below.

    ‘Oh,Jack,’ she whispered. Looking down at the packed lunch, still in her hand, ‘I must let you to a doctor before the stress kills both of us,’

    • Since you used the word “whispered,” it is not internal dialogue. Internal dialogue refers to what a character is thinking. We assume you meant to write “get” instead of “let.” The paragraph could be punctuated as follows:

      “Oh, Jack,” she whispered, looking down at the packed lunch, still in her hand. “I must get you to a doctor before the stress kills both of us.”

  32. Ernest B. says:

    I’m currently involved in a very heated discussion on a forum for writers about an odd US use of quotation marks in story telling dialogues.

    Before I go to far I’ll agree up front that the usage of dropping the closing quotation mark in a multi-paragraph quotation that is a common things. However, as per some on-line resources like wikipedia and Purdue University the preferred presentation is in a block quote style and it only applies to where you’re quoting someone else’s speech or writing.

    The problem I’m having at the moment is where some new US authors are applying this same drop the closing quote thing in dialogue they are writing while also cutting the dialogue up without using identifier tags for short paragraphs using this system.

    From what I can see in wikipedia, Purdue, and a few other sources, and what I was taught in school, the convention of the dropped closing quote should never be used in created dialogue in a story. I checked your site on this and found it didn’t cover this conflicting usage. O note you mention the two most influential US style manuals, both of which are intended for use by print media and students and I’m sure they properly cover quoting other speakers, as in quoting a presidential speech, as against dialogue in a fiction story.

    Can you please advise how you see this situation.

    • We’re on your side, and so is The Chicago Manual of Style. In its “Speech, Dialogue, and Conversation” section on quotation marks, Chicago recommends a change in speaker be indicated by ending quotation marks and a new paragraph.

  33. Jennifer says:

    I proofreading a manuscript for a friend and came across to areas of dialogue that I find puzzling.

    (The book is a book written for Christians who would be familiar with the term “Word” to mean Bible and the capitalization of deity references.)

    The two sentences are as follows:

    1. “But I have the Word,” we might say. “Shouldn’t that be enough?”

    2. Ask Jesus this question: What are Your plans for my life?

    Are either of these correct, and if not, how should they read?

    Thank you.

    • In number 2, we would not capitalize “Your” as both the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook recommend lowercase for pronouns referring to God or Jesus. Otherwise, both 1 and 2 are acceptable.

  34. Janis says:

    I am not sure the correct way to write the two following thoughts.

    “Allez, on y va. Il est temps de sortir de ma bulle à la fin,” I told myself. Come on. It’s time for me to finally reach out of my bubble. (The second line is in italics.)

    Would the two lines both be in italics or quotes? I’m trying to differentiate the English from the French, and also want to let the reader know what the French line means.

    • Italics can be used for isolated words and phrases in a foreign language if they are likely to be unfamiliar to readers. If you decide to italicize the French phrase, you have to use quotation marks for your inner dialogue. Both lines should be treated consistently.

      Allez, on y va. Il est temps de sortir de ma bulle à la fin,” I told myself. “Come on. It’s time for me to finally reach out of my bubble.”

  35. chris says:

    I’m told that in the below example you cannot have a question mark after drugged, because it is in the middle of a sentence.

    Had he been drugged, he wondered.

    However, if I choose to make it a first person thought and italicise that thought, then it would have a question mark.

    Have I been drugged? he wondered

    • Internal dialogue is used by authors to indicate what a character is thinking. There should be a question mark after the word drugged, but the exact thoughts should either be in quotation marks or italics. The sentence ends in a period.

      “Have I been drugged?” he wondered. OR
      Have I been drugged? he wondered.

      “Had he been drugged, he wondered,” should not have a question mark as it is not a direct question. It is similar to “He wondered if he had been drugged.”

  36. Loretta Livingstone says:

    If only one word in the sentence is in italics, should the punctuation immediately after the italicised word be in italics also?
    For example: Why am I so stupid? If stupid is italicised, should the ? Also be italicised?
    I am finding a lot of varying opinions on this?
    Thank you for your help.

    • There should not be varying opinions on this. The question mark belongs with the sentence, and is therefore written in the font of the main or surrounding text. In your example, the sentence may be considered internal dialogue, all of which may be written in italics: Why am I so stupid? However, if the question is being asked out loud, and for some reason you decide to use italics to emphasize just the word stupid, the question mark is part of the question as a whole, and does not belong only to the last word: “Why am I so stupid?”

  37. Jess says:

    I’m writing a short story and I’m getting conflicted suggestions on what I need to do. My story is being written in first person POV but also has times where it seems she is speaking in her head. I’m being told to put these lines in italic. The problem is that in one of the chapters it has flash backs which I’m being told should also be placed in italics to alert the reader it is taking place in the past. In my opinion it would confuse the reader to see italics being used for two different reasons…not to mention I’m not sure how I’d even work the “past” portion where she talks/makes comments in her head.

    • As we explained in the blog, if you choose to write the exact thoughts of a character, it is called internal dialogue. You can either use quotation marks or italics. We recommend that you choose one and remain consistent throughout your story. You do not need to put flashbacks in italics unless it is a character’s exact words or thoughts. It will be up to you to give the readers enough information so that they know which scenes are from the past.

  38. David Ryan says:

    Similar question as others have on this thread, with one exception. If you use italics for internal dialogue, is it even necessary to write “he thought” or “he wondered?”

    For example:

    Henry felt the tickle of a sharp blade across his throat and a soft warmth wash down his neck. I’m going to die.

    Or is this necessary:

    Henry felt the tickle of a sharp blade across his throat and a soft warmth wash down his neck. I’m going to die, he thought.

  39. Yuan says:

    Hi, there…
    I’m sorry if my question is a bit out of the topic
    I’m trying to write a letter in my novel.
    The girl is trying to say her mind to the boy

    I dont understand how to write the letter and wheter it’s grammatically wrong or not…

    For example:
    I thought you are the sweetest person I’ve ever met
    I once thought that we can be friends forever

    Or should I write it all in past tense?
    I thought you were the sweetest person I’d ever met
    I once thought that we could be friends forever

    Thank you

  40. Melinda says:

    My question is about capitalization inside quoted dialogue. I thought the following was the proper way:

    Mike said, “yep, I’m always ready.”

    But then in examples about other questions concerning comma and period location, I’ve seen examples like this:

    Mike said, “Yep, I’m always ready.”

    So should the quote start with a capital letter or not.
    Thanks!

  41. Pat says:

    What about if you are writing something like “He’s lucky he doesn’t get punched in the face he thought to himself.” or “I just want to punch him in the face he thought to himself”
    Also do you put “he thought to himself” after everything?

    • As stated in the blog, your sentences can be punctuated as follows:
      “He’s lucky he doesn’t get punched in the face,” he thought to himself. OR He’s lucky he doesn’t get punched in the face, he thought to himself.
      “I just want to punch him in the face,” he thought to himself. OR I just want to punch him in the face he thought to himself.

      There is no rule that says you must include phrases such as “he thought to himself.” It is up to you to communicate to the reader that it is internal dialogue.

  42. Erub says:

    I’m confused so you don’t have to put thoughts in quotation marks???????

  43. Dinora de Rivera says:

    How would you typesat: I just wanted to say Thank you so much?

  44. Edward Cascone says:

    I have written a novel that concerns a young conscientious objector coming of age in the late 1960’s. He is haunted by memories of his early childhood, his father’s death and the loss of friends. There are dream sequences, and in them a voice of reason that I call ‘the dream voice’. This voice sometimes offers insight, but it also taunts and criticizes the character. I have the first person POV as the protagonist talking to himself through ‘the dream voice’, but I have been told not to use italics to differentiate the two. However, I have heard it is expectable.
    Should I use italics for the characters introspective dialogue in order to clarify the conversation? I have also used third person omniscient POV as a narrative, which I know complicates things, but I feel it is necessary to advance the action of the story.
    Can someone offer some advice? This is my forth rewrite and I am exhausted.

  45. Shannon Ham says:

    I’m writing a children’s book and would like to use both 1st & 3rd person POV.

    1st person present tense when the character is speaking and 3rd person past tense for everything else.

    I have two questions. First about present/past tense with thoughts, and second, having to write the word ‘thought’:

    Is it okay to use 1st person present and past tense for thoughts? Example (is/thought/were): All of a sudden, a frog landed in the water. “Oh my, that frog is pink! I thought all frogs were green!” Maggie thought.

    Also, there are multiple characters in the book. Is it necessary to put ‘she thought’ or ‘Maggie thought’ (for example) when it’s obvious the main character is doing the thinking? So, can I use ‘thought’ when she’s with other characters and leave it off when she’s alone (as long as I’m consistent throughout the book)?

    Thank you.

    • Yes, it is fine to use first person present and past tense for thoughts. There is no rule that says you must include phrases such as “she thought,” as long as it is clear that it is internal dialogue.

  46. Catriona says:

    When writing transcriptions (UK) and reporting what someone had thought I wonder if it’s ok not to put a capital at the start of the reported thought?

    As he talked to me I was like, ‘why did he say that?’

    When reporting what someone said I’d put a capital:

    As I walked along he said to me, ‘Why did he say that to you?’

    Is this ok?

  47. Stephen M. Shaw says:

    Sometimes my characters think and speak in a short sequence. “George,” she said, thinking, ‘did he hear me?’

    I would like to use the single quotation marks to distinguish between quoted internal dialogue and speech. Am I all alone on this?

  48. Lucy says:

    What should I do if a character is thinking about something someone else said? For instance: Sarah recalled again what Mother had said about the First World War. “In the mountains of Michigan we weren’t really involved with it, yet it cast a shadow over our whole lives,” she’d said.
    Should this also be italicized since it is part of Sarah’s thoughts?

  49. Tayla says:

    So what if it’s in present tense and a character is thinking? Do you write “I think” or “I thought” because to me “I think” sounds weird for example:

    I brush my hand against the glass, ‘If only’, I thought/I think.

  50. Cheyenne says:

    As I was leaving the house I could see poor Pickle peeking his head through the curtain with his glum and still ugly face. All I could think was “That poor little dog.”.

    Is this right?

  51. Mark says:

    Hi There,

    I’m writing using a transcript format, so in my case, individuals are speaking constantly, (without using quotes), therefore I’m wondering how to punctuate the following example:

    Mel: I thought. . . Well how much evidence do I need?! I mean. . . Seriously, what would it take to convince this person? Who does he think I am, especially considering we’ve only had this short conversation?! If he thinks I’m delusional well. . . I give up!

    Should the: Well how much evidence to I need?!

    be in a single quote, double quote, or italicized, or just left as is.

    Another example, (similar):

    Adrian: I had the exact opposite experience, I love confrontation so I thought “Oh you think I’m delusional do you? Well then. . . Let me prove you wrong!!”

    (I’ve left the double quotes as that’s how I have had it punctuate up until now).

    Thanks,

    Mark

    • All the choices you mention for your first example are valid except for single quotation marks, which are not an option. In your second example, we would put a comma after “thought” and lowercase “Let,” after changing the ellipsis before it to a long dash. We also strongly recommend deleting the second exclamation point: “Well then—let me prove you wrong!”

  52. Katie says:

    What if the character is thinking about a dialogue he has had in the past. How would you write this?

  53. Viviana says:

    What if I want to replace quotation marks or italics by Hyphens when a character is thinking or saying something in a conversation? can it be suitable when correcting style in English narrative texts or not?…for example:
    instead of using quotes
    He looked at it carefully, then he said:
    “No. This sheep is already very sickly. Make me another.”
    I use hyphens
    —No! This sheep is already very sickly. Make me another. So I made another drawing.

  54. Lucille says:

    If you use italics for inner, unspoken thoughts, do you need to indicate in words they are thinking or are italics explicit enough?

  55. Jay says:

    I’m writing a book, and I would like to know if I’m using correct punctuations.

    Ex)

    She said that, she enjoys being happy and in fact, feeling happy makes her day go by much easier

  56. Lucy says:

    Do you go on to the next line.
    The police arrived shortly to bar the crime scene.
    “Officer how is the victim,” my mother asked.
    “She been shot in the right shoulder but she’s lucky she survived.”

    • Your sentences do not represent internal dialogue, and they contain several errors. If the next line is relevant to the topic of the paragraph, go to the next line. If not, start a new paragraph. We’re not familiar with “bar the crime scene.”

      The police arrived shortly to “tape off” (or “cordon off”) the crime scene.
      “Officer, how is the victim?” my mother asked.
      “She’s been shot in the right shoulder, but she’s lucky she survived.”

  57. D. M. Mitchell says:

    I’m writing a story in which two people are communicating through a website’s messaging system. For example: Stella thought for a bit then wrote, “How do you know I’m not tall and blonde?” My question is whether I should use quotation marks, as I did above, even though it is not spoken language but rather being written on one computer screen and being read on another.

  58. Keara says:

    Im writing a research paper and in my introduction, i began to write ..

    You may ask, is jimson weed really all that dangerous? Like isnt it like any other “weed” drug?

    And my question is, how do i correctly format that? Do i do quotations? italics? help please!

  59. Miss Rosean says:

    I was wondering do I put quotation marks if asking a question to someone? Example: why do you write so much or what are you writing?
    Thank you for your input and helping me out.

    Miss Rosean

  60. Tad says:

    Thanks Jane. You are a big help. I am having trouble punctuating this. I want to use italics instead of quotation marks.

    Oh, my… What strange people these are, was the thought that lingered in Aynur’s mind.

    • There are many other ways to punctuate the sentence, but we chose to do so as close to your example as possible.
      Oh, my… What strange people these are, was the thought that lingered in Aynur’s mind.

  61. Jessica says:

    Hello Jane:)
    My book is written in the Chicago Manual of Style, so should “where” and “he” be capitalized in the middle of the sentence or not?

    I have 2 sentences:

    Later, we exchanged another glance—his glance lingering a little longer than mine—and all I could think was, Where do I know that guy from?

    (Where do I know that guy from- is italicized. I’m not sure why I can’t modify her in the comments box.)

    Or

    Later, we exchanged another glance—his glance lingering a little longer than
    mine—and all I could think was, where do I know that guy from?

    Strangely and unexpectedly, I thought, He doesn’t like me. (once again- He doesn’t like me is also italicized)

    Or

    Strangely and unexpectedly, I thought, he doesn’t like me.

    • In Chicago style, neither “where” nor “he” would ordinarily require capitalization in your examples; however, the unorthodox presence of italics would seem to justify capitalizing. So as long as you retain the italics, we endorse the caps.

  62. Jaleel says:

    In the case that the character has another personality within him, how do I make it so that personality A is distinguishable from personality B? I’ve been using quotations for one and italics for the other up to this point but I’m not clear about it.

    • There are no formal rules for this kind of creative writing. You could create names for each personality and treat them as separate individuals or continue to do what you are doing.

  63. Doug says:

    If you are italicizing an inner thought in prose, do you italicize the surrounding punctuation as well? Like if you wrote: My God! I thought, and the My God part was italicized, would the exclamation mark be italicized also?

  64. Maxie Patoka says:

    I have a short story in which Spanish characters appear. I have italicized the short sections where the text of what they are thinking appears in English. This works fine. But occasionally in the story, words appear in dialogue, such as this: “Estoy molido,” said the man, as he pulled out of the driveway. Should that just go in quotation marks like I have it?

  65. Gail says:

    I’ve enjoyed your explanations of questions.

    My short story is based on a true story about a dog. Most of it is in past tense from the dog’s POV. Any internal thoughts are in italics. In the last paragraph, the dog is speaking about his current situation in present tense. Should it be written with regular script, italics, or quotation marks? Here is the beginning of the final paragraph.

    I’ve come a long way from those bleak days of being lonely and despondent, chained to a tree, chafed by a heavy collar. Now I’m in dog heaven: I have my own castle, my own bed, etc.

    Thank you, Gail

  66. Palu says:

    Can we end a narrative essay with a thought?

    I just laughed at it and thought, Now everyone can see how my mom can be. Could I end it like that so it could be my concluding statement?

    • The sentence could be punctuated as you have it, or as follows:
      I just laughed at it and thought, Now everyone can see how my mom can be. OR
      I just laughed at it and thought, “Now everyone can see how my mom can be.”

      There is no rule against ending a narrative essay with a thought. A creative writing expert could advise whether the sentence is a proper concluding statement to your essay.

  67. Kira says:

    so, I’m kinda in a pinch. Firstly, I don’t think the structure of this sentence is right, then I’m not sure if that first period should be there. After that, I’m not sure if the S should be capitalized or not.

    And still as bratty, I see. She chuckled.
    OR
    “and still as bratty, I see.” She chuckled.

    It’s kinda weird without the quotation marks though. help?

    • Part of the reason the structure does not look right may be because the quotation “and still as bratty, I see,” is not a complete sentence. However, this could represent spoken dialogue where sentences are not always correct. There should be a comma instead of a period before the closing quotation marks, and the s in she should not be capitalized: “And still as bratty, I see,” she chuckled.

  68. Tera says:

    I’ve been hired to transcribe video dialogue and I need to figure out how to punctuate the following sentence:

    So in brushing the teeth, maybe it’s just that sparkly clean feeling that you feel like, Okay, I’ve done it and my mouth feels fresh and good. Maybe it’s an emotional feeling like, Okay, now I can get closer to the people I love and not worry that they’re going to be offended by my breath.

    Should the internal dialogue beginning with “Okay” be italicized? Does it need quotations? Capitalization?

    Thank you!

    • You can use quotation marks or italics. It is a matter of preference. Your capitalization is fine.
      So in brushing the teeth, maybe it’s just that sparkly clean feeling that you feel like, “Okay, I’ve done it and my mouth feels fresh and good.”
      Maybe it’s an emotional feeling like, “Okay, now I can get closer to the people I love and not worry that they’re going to be offended by my breath.” OR
      So in brushing the teeth, maybe it’s just that sparkly clean feeling that you feel like, Okay, I’ve done it and my mouth feels fresh and good.
      Maybe it’s an emotional feeling like, Okay, now I can get closer to the people I love and not worry that they’re going to be offended by my breath.

  69. Jolin says:

    Can the apostrophe be used for internal dialogue / thought ?

    • You are probably referring to single quotation marks rather than apostrophes. Regardless, as we demonstrate in the post, we recommend using double quotation marks or italics for internal dialogue or thought.

  70. Will says:

    American-style question: What do you do in the occurrence of internal dialogue that actually directly quotes other people/remembrances, and then transitions into full-on vocal dialogue. If thoughts in italics are technically treated the same as thoughts with double quotes, then shouldn’t the direct quotes within internal dialogue be single quotation marks? Otherwise there is no differentiation from the vocal dialogue. Example:

    The words I hear are always the same . . . ‘You can’t succeed.’ “Oh, yeah? Just watch me!” she yelled in defiance. (All of this is happening at once from one person; the call-and-response is internal to external.)

    IF the above can be correct, it raises questions about the rules for me that I’m trying to understand: [Is it] “Tall guy, red hair.” The words of John replayed in his head from earlier in the day. [or] ‘Tall guy, red hair.’ The words of John replayed in his head from earlier in the day. [If words of the past are being repeated to someone in their head, then it is technically a quote of a quote, and therefore would seemingly be single quotation marks, which would help reduce confusion of the words being spoken out loud. What would you say?]

    I am curious what your take is on a complicated prose case like this. Thank you.

    • Although we do not have the full context from which to work, we will assume that you are using italics to indicate thought, italics within quotation marks to indicate exact quotations within thought, standard type to indicate narration, and standard type within quotation marks to indicate exact spoken words. Therefore, we recommend:
      The words I hear are always the same . . . “You can’t succeed.”
      “Oh, yeah? Just watch me!” she yelled in defiance.

      Tall guy, red hair,” the words of John replayed in his head from earlier in the day.

  71. Jordyn says:

    I am trying to figure out the correct grammar for a particular few sentences. It is to do with speech vs thoughts.
    “we should grab a coffee,”
    (‘Absolutely not!’)
    “i’d love to!”
    In this, I am trying to portray that person A says line one, and person B thinks line two and then says line three.
    How can I show this through correct grammar?

    • There is no rule that says you must include phrases such as “he thought” or “she said”; however, it is up to you to give enough information to communicate to the reader that there is internal dialogue and which character is speaking. One possibility:
      “We should grab a coffee.”
      Absolutely not! “I’d love to!”

  72. Staci Diffendaffer says:

    Is it necessary to use italics or quotations if the piece is a POV essay? Half of the story includes thoughts but does not say “I thought.”

    Example:
    My muscles ache. Tears burn my eyes. It’s so close. It’s almost mine. If only I were a little taller, I could reach. A little smarter, I could find a way. I will find a way.
    Why?! Why does it allude me? I slam my fist into the wall, screaming into the darkness.

    • We recommend using either italics or quotation marks to indicate the exact thoughts of your character as opposed to descriptions of what’s taking place. (Note that you likely intended “elude” rather than “allude.”)

  73. Barbara says:

    When your character starts thinking or saying something, do you start on a new line? Or do you only start on a new line after your character has spoken?
    Example: The gunman makes his way over to the corner of the café and bends down. “What do we do now, Shawn?” I asked.

    or

    The gunman makes his way over to the corner of the café and bends down.
    “What do we do now, Shawn?” I asked.

    • You should start a new line when there is a change in the person who is speaking. There is no requirement to begin a new line when changing between narration or description and dialogue; it’s up to the author. We favor your first example.

  74. Calyn says:

    How do you write this properly?
    The silence in the room was broken by the thoughts in my head, “these people are insane.”

    • As the post indicates, you may use quotation marks or italics for internal dialogue.
      The silence in the room was broken by the thoughts in my head, “These people are insane.” OR
      The silence in the room was broken by the thoughts in my head, These people are insane.

  75. Kevin says:

    I don’t understand how italics works? A character thought with italics included doesn’t looks different from the original one.

    • As you can see from the second example, the words “Charles thought” are in standard type, making it even more apparent that the portion in italics represents his thoughts.

  76. Dani Gammill says:

    How do I express the word thought in the sentence…And I just thought I was going to get a tan.

  77. Lindsay says:

    Hello. If a character is dreaming and a secondary character is in the dream speaking, would I italicize because it is a dream thought by the original character and the place the thought in quotation marks because they are the words of a secondary character? EX: “We’re lost,” said a voice in Henrik’s mind. Should I italicize that quotation?

  78. Katy says:

    Which is better, using the italics or the quotation marks or leaving it in the context used below

    Do I have a family? How old am I? Can I even move? I attempt to move my hand, to my surprise it moves. Okay, I can move lets work with this. Whole body please move and stand up. Standing is more difficult than I thought. I feel what I can guess is pain because my body stops trying. UGH.

    THANKS

  79. I’ve scoured the web for this one…

    What if I am writing a book within a book (where the main character of the book I am writing is also writing a book that is included in my book) and the 2nd book is all italicized in individual chapters? Consider the following sentence in italics:

    If there was one thing that would help her find strength at this moment, it would be the thought of him. “Where is my Logan?” she thought, “I need to help him, where is he?”

    Are the quotation marks necessary or should a different font be used? Or should I quit writing?

  80. Anonymous says:

    Hi!
    This doesn’t have really have to do with internal dialogues, but it’s still about grammar.

    So for example, if two characters are talking to each other like this:

    “Hello!” he said.
    “Hi!” I replied.

    Is it small h or big H?
    Because you have already closed your quotation marks.
    So my question is when you have closed your quotations should the following letter be big or small.

  81. Melissa says:

    Can you use both Italics and quotation marks in one story?

    • If you are asking about whether it is acceptable to use both italics and quotation marks to indicate internal dialogue, we recommend choosing one or the other and remaining consistent throughout the story. However, you may certainly use italics for internal dialogue and quotation marks for words spoken aloud in a story.

  82. Seraphina says:

    What if I’m already using italics for something? Such as the click of a camera and then a thought.

  83. Grace J. Cenas says:

    In technical document writing, is it okay to use first person and third person POV in any part of the write up?

  84. Mark says:

    Hi there. Can you use italics with quote marks if you’re recalling in a dream-like state what someone said to you? For example: the words of Simba’s father echoed in his mind, “Remember…remember me, Simba.” (quote written in italics).

  85. Rainbow says:

    If you are thinking thoughts to yourself do you use single or double quotation marks

    Example: ‘How did I end up here? On my back, tied down and suffocating on the rancid fumes of coke and ice.’ ‘How did a beautiful day, start with listening to the fifth symphony, yet end, in a nightmare from hell?’ ‘All I wanted was to meet my ‘mystery man’, but uncovering the mystery, opened a web of lies.’ ‘Why didn’t I stop and look at the report on tv? I may not even be here if I did.’

    Or

    “How did I end up here? On my back, tied down and suffocating on the rancid fumes of coke and ice.” “How did a beautiful day, start with listening to the fifth symphony, yet end, in a nightmare from hell?” “All I wanted was to meet my ‘mystery man’, but uncovering the mystery, opened a web of lies.” “Why didn’t I stop and look at the report on tv? I may not even be here if I did.”

    • If you introduce this passage such that it is clearly direct internal dialogue, then you may use quotation marks or italics. For example:
      Awakening, I thought, “How did I end up here on my back, tied down and suffocating on the rancid fumes of coke and ice? How did a beautiful day start with listening to the fifth symphony yet end in a nightmare from hell? All I wanted was to meet my ‘mystery man,’ but uncovering the mystery opened a web of lies. Why didn’t I stop and look at the report on tv? I may not even be here if I did.”

  86. Yonatan Shaked says:

    What is the correct way to show internal dialogue if it is prayer – with God, whether a private prayer or a set prayer?
    Thank you.
    I have The Blue Book but cannot find the answer.

  87. Maria says:

    When students are handwriting rather than typing, should they use quotation marks for both?

  88. Lisa Roney says:

    Yet another take on this question. I am editing a piece in third-person limited p.o.v. The main character, George, at one point is listening to another character speak about what she was thinking before. So it’s like this:

    “I’m happy, George,” she said. “Every day I wake up and think, I shouldn’t even be alive. But I am.”

    I think that “I shouldn’t even be alive” should either use single quotations or italics, but the author I’m editing disagrees.

    There’s another place in the manuscript where a bunch of different voices are being quoted from memory, but all run together, like so:

    A bunch of women would always come into the room and complain. My toes hurt. Or, My head hurts. Or, even, I feel like vomiting.

    I believe we should use quotation marks around each one, but the author is resisting that, too. Do you know of good sources (like CMS) that answer these questions. I can’t find the exact solutions except in my own grammarian’s heart.

    • The areas you identify are some in which no hard-and-fast rules apply. Rather, they are more authorial style decisions, particularly in fiction writing. Here are some potentially efficient and accurate ways the text you cite could be treated:

      “I’m happy, George,” she said. “Every day I wake up and think I shouldn’t even be alive. But I am.” (Neither a comma nor single quotation marks are necessary for meaning or clarity.)

      “A bunch of women would always come into the room and complain: ]My toes hurt. My head hurts. Or even sometimes I feel like vomiting.

  89. Maggie says:

    If I am writing in third person limited and I write a sentence with internal dialogue, do I have to follow it with “he/she thought”?

    Ex: Callan heard a knock on the door. Speak of the devil.

    • There is no rule that says you must include phrases such as “he thought” or “she said”; however, it is up to you to give enough information to communicate to the reader that there is internal dialogue and which character is speaking. For example:
      Callan heard a knock on the door. Speak of the devil.

  90. The Dreamer says:

    I’m writing my first novel and I have a character in the beginning of my book which I want to refer to as basically just a title for example:The Teacher. The reader will eventually discover “The Teacher” name but for now I just want to call him the Teacher. Here are some examples of what I’m having trouble with.

    Which one of these would be right? This would be the first appearance of the Teacher. Ex 1:
    1. Billy walked through the front door of his home to discover “The Teacher” sitting in his dad’s favorite chair.
    2. Billy walked through the front door of his home to discover ‘The Teacher’ sitting in his dad’s favorite chair.
    3. Billy walked through the front door of his home to discover The Teacher(Italics) sitting in his dad’s favorite chair. (Couldn’t figure out how to make it Italics in this reply box)

    Which one of there would be right? This would be after the first appearance but is being referred to as a person in dialogue. Ex 2:
    1.“It’s time we had a chat, Billy.” replies The Teacher while crossing his legs and pointing to the couch next to him.
    2.“It’s time we had a chat, Billy.” replies the Teacher while crossing his legs and pointing to the couch next to him.
    3.“It’s time we had a chat, Billy.” replies the teacher while crossing his legs and pointing to the couch next to him.

    Which one of there would be right? This would be after the first appearance but used as a reference of the person instead of in a dialogue. Ex 3:
    1.Bill flops his backpack down and walks around the couch and take a sit next to The Teacher, he crosses his arms and waits the lecture.
    2.Bill flops his backpack down and walks around the couch and take a sit next to the Teacher, he crosses his arms and waits the lecture.
    3.Bill flops his backpack down and walks around the couch and take a sit next to the teacher, he crosses his arms and waits the lecture.

    Any help would be appreciated!
    Thanks

    • There are no hard-and-fast rules about this. We recommend writing the Teacher (without quotation marks or italics) as it offers the mystery and prominence you’re wanting to achieve with a touch of subtlety.

  91. abbey says:

    I want to put italics in this sentence, but will it make sense or will I have to get rid of the question mark? ex. How do I get him out? I thought to myself, I can’t do it by myself.

    • The question mark is fine. The repetition of the word myself seems awkward. We recommend:
      How do I get him out? I thought, I can’t do it by myself. OR
      How do I get him out? I thought. I can’t do it by myself.

  92. Anon says:

    Hi! This is not about internal dialogues but is still about grammar dialogues nonetheless.

    So let´s say I am writing a dialogue between one or two people. When and why is the reason I would put a comma instead of a period at the dialogue?

    For example,

    “I don’t understand.” He muttered, “you are a traitor,”

    VS

    “I do not understand,” he muttered. “You are a traitor.”

    Would I capitalize the “you” in the second sentence or keep it lowercase?
    Also, would the “he” be capitalized or not?
    Lastly, would there be a comma after “muttered” or a period instead?

    I know this is a lot of questions, but it would really help with my writing if I could get all this cleared up.

    Thanks!!

  93. Liz says:

    When writing dialogue where a character is speaking and is “interrupted” by their own thoughts, would I write the sentence like this: “That’s nice, but you don’t need to be worried about me. I’m-” hurting “-fine.” (with hurting italicized)

  94. Julie Wilkinson says:

    In the following paragraph, do I need to start a new paragraph for the internal dialogue?

    Miss Mary arrived five minutes late. She sat down and gave thanks for the dinner they were about to eat. The children looked at the food and frowned. They were getting tired of the same old food, day after day. “I don’t want to eat this garbage again!” thought Sam.

  95. Kimmy says:

    …and doesn’t like “sentimental crap,” as she calls it. “Minimal possessions means minimal maintenance.” I know that she…

    Should the quoted parts be ‘quoted’ or italicized. I;m leaning towards them being italicized as to not confuse the reader.

    Also, when using the word ‘gestured’, can it be used without being followed by ‘towards’ as in:
    “The teacher gestured the board.”
    INSTEAD OF
    “The teacher gestured towards the board.”
    when the teacher is stood in front of the board?

    I understand the use of ‘gestured towards’ if, for instance, someone is gesturing towards something in the distance or out of direct sight. But if they are gesturing at a specific thing or something nearby, like a pen on a desk, should the ‘towards’ be left out?
    “Sign your name.” She gestured the pen on the desk.
    OR
    “Sign your name.” She gestured towards the pen on the desk.

    Whichever is correct (or matter of choice), does this also apply if a person gestures their own or someone else’s appearance:
    “Look at me. I’m a mess.” She gestures herself.
    OR
    “Look at me. I’m a mess.” She gestures towards herself.

    Thanks in advance!

  96. Lyrckal says:

    For continuous internal dialogue, is it ok to have the speech marks at the very first thought and then right at the end of the last thought? Instead of at the beginning and end of each thought?

  97. wannabe-editor says:

    Which usage is correct and/or preferred and why? “Where is he?” she thought. or “Where is he?” She thought.

    • We prefer the first option. This makes it clear that the quotation is internal dialogue. We see no reason to make it two sentences.

      • stephanie says:

        Is this internal dialogue and does it need quotation marks:

        Then I was thinking how would I fix the ship or can I build a little house until I build my ship and fly home

        I was thinking it should look like this:
        Then I was thinking, “how would I fix the ship or can I build a little house until I build my ship and fly home?”

        • If these are the exact words as thought by the character, then this is direct internal dialogue. Our Rule 2a of Quotation Marks says, “Always capitalize the first word in a complete quotation, even midsentence.” Also, our Rule 3b of Commas says, “In sentences where two independent clauses are joined by connectors such as and, or, but, etc., put a comma at the end of the first clause.” Therefore, the following is correct:
          Then I was thinking, “How would I fix the ship, or can I build a little house until I build my ship and fly home?”

          However, if these are not the exact words, you could write:
          Then I was thinking about how I would fix the ship, or could I build a little house until I build my ship and fly home.

  98. Ronald Davis says:

    How would I write this out?

    All we can say to ourselves is, “What the heck were we thinking back then?”

    It’s not an internal dialogue, but something you would say to yourself, maybe after regret.

  99. nortarnortar says:

    I’d like to know if writing thoughts in italics is a recent trend or has it been done for a long time?
    I clearly remember learning in American elementary school that external talking dialogue should start and finish with “double quote marks” and internal thinking dialogue with ‘single quote marks’. Was I taught wrong?
    Bty english is not my first language and i’ve gone to both American schools and British schools so my english learning experience is very complicated.

    • It’s not necessarily a matter of being taught incorrectly. Rules and practices change over time. Now that computers and printers are everywhere, almost everyone has access to italics. We used to place book titles in quotation marks, but now we use italics. We have books in our library published over forty years ago using italics for internal dialogue. Style guides are now recommending single quotation marks only for quotations within quotations.

  100. Hannah says:

    How would I do this?

    During the race, his thoughts changed from, “one more try” to “I can win.” During the final stretch Mills was in third place. His thoughts again shifted from, “I can win” to “I won, I won, I won.”

    • During the race, his thoughts changed from “one more try” to “I can win.” During the final stretch Mills was in third place. His thoughts again shifted from “I can win” to “I won, I won, I won.”

  101. GrammarGeek says:

    This website really helped. Thanks to the authors of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation; you helped me pass my English GCSEs!

  102. Jasmine says:

    I have a similar dilemma. In my story, a character is mouthing words to another character so that she can get her point across without being heard. Should I put this in quotes or should I just keep it in italics as if it were a thought?

    Here is the specific excerpt in case I was not clear.

    Looking at the woman she mouthed,

    *If they catch us they’ll burn us too.*

  103. Haleighleaf says:

    How do I show thinking if the website I upload to doesn’t support italics, especially with questions? I am writing a Super Mario Bros fanfiction, and I ended up with this sentence because they don’t support italics.

    Wow, are we really the only kingdom to have platforming sections? Luigi quietly thought to himself.

    I think it looks weird, but I can’t think of any better way to write it. Is there any better way to write it?

    • As the post says, either italics or quotation marks can be used for internal dialogue. Therefore, write the following:
      “Wow, are we really the only kingdom to have platforming sections?” Luigi thought to himself.

  104. Kristi Luchi says:

    I want to say to whoever is writing the responses: Great job! You’re so patient and helpful!

  105. lenat says:

    I haven’t been able to find anything on second person thoughts, and was wondering how you would format a quote that someone gave me in an interview I’m transcribing:

    But you think, Well, you’re 75. How much longer are you going to live?

    I originally put quotations around the thought, but am not 100% sure if that’s how I should punctuate the quote or if I should punctuate it at all because it’s in the second person.

    • As you can see from some of the comments and responses above, there are no universally agreed-upon rules about internal dialogue. However, whether second or first person, these words still represent exact thoughts as written. We would recommend either quotation marks or italics for the words after “think.”

  106. Jennifer says:

    I have a character who often mistakenly thinks out loud. Would I put quotations around the spoken thought or write it as a thought and then explain that it was not meant to be said aloud.

  107. Jorge says:

    I’m sorry if this question has already been asked. I was wondering how you differentiate between two different POVs? I have written a chapter for each character in the past but this doesn’t flow in the way that I want it too. Any suggestions? Thank you.

    • We are unsure whether you are asking about first vs. third person points of view, or the points of view of two characters. Perhaps our responses to “bigsonny” of February 8 and 20 of 2012, will be of help.

  108. Connie says:

    I am unsure if I can put dialogue, in this case, internal dialogue, right in the middle of a paragraph. The paragraph is related and it is all connected. Should I leave it in, or do I need to make a separate paragraph? Dialogue is so often separated and I’m trying to learn exactly how to separate it. Also should the “t” in the word “that” in “that tiny part” be capitalized? Here is the example:
    Another bomb was falling across town somewhere as she double knotted her first shoe with trained deftness. The noise was like an unbearably shrill whistle threatening to break the glass in the windows followed by a screaming shaking concussion that made everything in her room rattle violently. It was as if her belongings, furniture and even the house itself were trembling against the bomb’s assault, like little animals cowering in fear as their home and safety were maliciously invaded. Deena felt like cowering and trembling too. Part of her was cringing, recoiling against the truth of the event. “It can’t be really happening!” that tiny part of her shrieked in denial and cowardice, but her training and true self took over. Her body was moving almost without her command. She had done this hundreds of times in the drills. “Just keep moving,” she told herself, “you know how to do this.”

    • It is up to the author whether to keep the text of the internal dialogue within the same paragraph as the narrative or as separate paragraphs. Another approach would be to italicize the internal dialogue and use the subsequent text as attribution:
      It can’t be really happening! that tiny part of her shrieked in denial and cowardice… [the exclamation point overrides the need for a comma]
      Just keep moving, she told herself. You know how to do this.

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