The following is from The Fault in Our Stars:

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If I'm not mistaken, this is the formatting:

  • The font should be half the size of the normal font.
  • They should be indented with twice the indent space.
  • They should have the paragraphs separated by spaces that are half a scene break.

Am I right? Is this the common way of formatting letters and text messages inside novels?

  • I would also be interested in knowing about the font. In many novels, I see different sans serif fonts used for text messages. In a straight-text novel for Kindle Publishing, for example, are there some set fonts that are recommended for use when writing text messages?
    – MoniqueH
    Oct 19, 2015 at 16:05

3 Answers 3


It depends on the publication. For example, in many novels I read half the size of the normal font would make it unreadable. Double indenting is common. Italics or a script font for a letter is common. I have seen a number of different formats. It also depends on whether the whole of a letter or only part of it is being quoted. Sometimes, if a letter or message is very old the font will be more ornate.


To answer your question quickly, yes, that is pretty much the standard for letters within a novel. Though, as Tave said, it depends on the publication.

There is no universal format, but there are several things to keep in mind. Any long quotation (as in a letter) can be considered a block quotation. These are typically indented, and have either a slightly smaller font, or a monospaced font as found on typewriters. It makes the letter easier to read, and to distinguish from the remainder of the text.

As for text messages, it makes sense to follow a format similar to a letter, though you could make a case for an in-line quotation due to their brevity.

Really, outside of journal publication, formatting is a highly subjective element to writing. Depending on the type of narrative, it might make more sense to try things another way. House of Leaves comes to mind, which was meant to be frantic, crazy, and frankly impossible.

If you're not trying to create anything Dada, you've hit the nail on the head.


There is no one standard. The formatting is usually different in some way from the narrative text, but in what way exactly is up to the typesetter. In books with simpler typesetting, letters and quoted texts are often formatted in italics; those that play with it more may use a different font from that of the narrative text altogether (usually reminiscent of what the document would look like in-universe and usually a bunch of them for different characters' handwriting and various in-universe printed publications), some even add a background.

Using a smaller font is not common at all in my experience, I can't recall seeing it ever. And I must say I probably wouldn't like it if I did because it wouldn't be easy on the eyes. In fact I sometimes see the opposite - if a more ornate font is used, then it tends to be somewhat larger, probably again to be more reader-friendly.

Paragraphs should not be separated any differently from paragraphs in the narrative, and I'd like to note that in your example they aren't. Those are not paragraphs of a letter, those are fully separate messages, so it makes sense to separate them by a space; paragraphs of one and the same letter wouldn't have spaces between them like this.

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