At this point in my story, it's already been revealed that 2 characters share a telepathic link with one another that allows them to communicate to each other with their minds.

"Now before we get to business there is one issue I must resolve," Hitagi said, getting up before pinning Kabaru against the wall with her heel. "Care to explain why the hell you thought it funny to send me photos of a prostitute who looked like you?"

"How do you know it's me in here?" Kabaru asked, her voice distorted by the vocal mask inbuilt into her helmet. "Yulia, help?"

"I told you off for the same thing too remember? Don't be surprised if Rise starts beating you with her staff after this now that she know the truth."

Hitagi turned her head sharply glaring at Yulia. "Knock it off. I know you're both using that telepathy thing."

As you can see currently when I want to show that a conversation is occurring in the minds of characters, I use italics (plain text wise I use <i> tags to show where it goes). This way it distinguishes this from the vocal stuff with having to repeatedly say "he/she said in his/her mind."

Is this the generally the accepted format style for telepathic communication in the midst of verbal communication? If not, and if there is one, what would be the general format style for this?

  • 2
    I agree with Lauren's answer. Generally, you should think of such a question in the context of what kinds of speech there are (dialog, voices from the radio, telekinesis, talking over the telephone, ...) and what kinds of markup you have available (basically just plain text, quotations marks, and italics, as all caps, boldface, and underlining are not conventionally used in fiction). Here is an answer I wrote to another question that systemizes some of these speech types and markup options: writers.stackexchange.com/a/17142/5645
    – user5645
    Sep 15, 2016 at 10:45

2 Answers 2


Italic text is the most common format for telepathic communications.

Savil spotted the soldiers filing into the pass and called up to her nephew. Get into position. They're here, she sent.
And the demon? he asked.
I can smell it from halfway up the mountain, Savil confirmed.

Sometimes other punctuation is thrown in to set telepathic speech apart from emphasis or thought. Mercedes Lackey uses double colons:

Vanyel glanced over at Yfandes. ::You'd better go now,:: he sent to her.

You could also use guillemets:

Yfandes snorted. «And leave you alone with that thing? Not bloody likely.» He smiled grimly at his Companion's loyalty.

You might use asterisks as well:

Vanyel made his decision. *Okay, you move into the valley and cover the soldiers. I'm going to the peak where I can get a better shot at that thing,* he sent Savil.

As a separate but related note, I would use sent rather than thought at or thought to as the attribution tag, but that's a matter of style.

I absolutely would not use quotes for telepathy or internal thoughts if you're using quotes for verbal speech; it's visually confusing.

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    just in regards to SE markdown you can get asterisks by doing \* so *\*hello\** = *hello*
    – Memor-X
    Sep 16, 2016 at 2:51
  • @Memor-X Oh YAY! that worked! Thank you! :D Sep 16, 2016 at 9:40
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    David Brin used the double colons to denote telepathic thoughts in his novel Startide Rising .
    – Catalyst
    Nov 13, 2017 at 16:09

No, there is no generally accepted style. And be warned, readers are put off by large volumes of italic texts.

You are probably disrespecting your reader. The reader already knows who's telepathic and who's not. If you insist on stating the obvious you can do it in the tags. - Katrina said to Elizabeth.

The way you've set it up is fine. There is no need for italics.

  • 1
    I've read enough stories with indistinguishable telepathic messages to be able to say very conclusively, "No, the reader does not." It's especially notable that authors who distinguish between different types of communication well can have multi-level communication with telepaths who are in the same room as each other, making it clear there is one message that people who only understand verbal messages get, one that those who understand non-verbal messages get, a third that speaks to those who know sign language, but only the telepathic recipient got the real message.
    – Ed Grimm
    Mar 17, 2019 at 19:08

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