Can you use italics in first person if you are showing the main character's inner thoughts even if the main character is also the narrator? I was told by someone if your whole novel is in first person you don't need italics.

I wrote the sentence:

Zion turned the corner into the yard, just then-huffing and puffing real loud. He began pacing in circles. I wondered where he just came from. Did he find Burns? And if so, did Zion and Burns have a fight over the ruined tank?

(the asterisks sentence is in italics)


3 Answers 3


If the thought interrupts the description the way a piece of dialogue does, you can italicize. (Some writers use quotation marks instead, while still others capitalize the thought like a quotation, but without the quote marks.)

The point of italics is to separate the character's thought from the rest of the text and avoid any confusion between what's going on in the character's mind and what's happening in the "real" world around him.

In your case, it looks like the thoughts are part of the flow of the narration, so you don't need to separate them with italics. (If you get too heavy with the italics, it can get annoying for the reader.) However, for added clarity, you could perhaps put the thoughts in a separate paragraph from the more descriptive passages.

He began pacing in circles.

Where had he come from? Did he find Burns? And if so, did Zion and Burns have a fight over the ruined tank?

If you don't have too many of these narrator thoughts, then by all means italicize them and run the paragraphs together.


You don't necessarily need the italics if it's first-person inner-monologue. This is basically where the character thinks. If you want to show that the character actually thought something in a specific way, then you can use italics.


Placing italics with thoughts in first person puts you in a difficult position because you will frequently be faced with that decision. Where do you draw the line?

I would draw it where you have a tense change from past to present. And possibly from past to past perfect, but that doesn't really alter the reader's flow. Change to italics lets the reader know you have jumped time frame. It's analogous to regular dialogue in a third-person, past-tense point of view. However, several successful writers simply stick to roman in first person.

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