I want to add sections within my novel where multiple characters are sending text messages to each other, but don't how to format it or if there's a certain way of doing it. For example, would I do it like this:

He decided to distract himself by sending Amy a message: How are things going on your end? He was looking out his window when his phone vibrated in his hand, the text was short: Uneventful. We’re falling asleep... Help.

Or, would it be better like this:

How are things going on your end?

He was looking out his window when his phone vibrated in his hand:

Uneventful. We’re falling asleep… Help.

The latter would be indented and formatted into looking like text message bubbles, without the bubbles, of course. Or is there a better way of doing it? I want to avoid using italics as I'm already using them for inner dialogue, thoughts and memories.


2 Answers 2


I don't think there is a standard yet, invent something easy to recognize and convert. I'd follow the pictorial approach, without the pictures; meaning your texts are indented with one tab, reply texts are indented with at least two tabs to appear more on the right. I'd label texts with colons instead of commas. (Howard: instead of Howard said,).

[tab] Howard: "You doing anything?"

[double tab] Lacy: "Laundry. You?"

[tab] Howard: "Bored."

[double tab] Lacy: Concern emoji; "If you hurry you can watch me wash my underwear."

[tab] Howard: Three excitement emojis; "On my way!"

[double tab] Lacy: Hat tip emoji.

This can be easily recognized by editors, if they want to convert to another font, or actually include the emojis. Illustrations are expensive; I would not include them for emojis. The colon is also easy to search; typically it is not used often in narrative writing.

I agree with using italics for thoughts. I'd just warn against using any "special effects" like fonts, bolding, under or over lining, etc. Stick with the basics, you don't want an agent or publisher seeing an "expense" item every three pages, distracting from your story.

Invent a standard and stick to it.


I prefer the following transcript-style format because it works without any styling:

(Mary) They look like white elephants

(Richard) I've never seen one

(Mary) No, you wouldn't have

(Richard) I might have

(Richard) Just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything

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