I am authoring a novel. The main character interacts with others in oral conversation and will also have internal dialogue with himself, during the same conversation. Or he will talk aloud to an object such as a bar of soap, a door, or his vehicle. I've been told various correct ways to handle this task:

  1. Italicize the thought with no quotation marks.
  2. Italicize the thought WITH quotation marks.
  3. Do not italicize but use quotation marks.

The number 3 answer sounds confusing because when he has a dialogue with another person up to a group of four people, there would be a lot of, he said, she said, Ida said, Beatrice said, or a slew of asks. Or I thought.

What's the correct way of formatting this?

1 Answer 1


The proper way is actually the one that you left out: Inner monologue should not use either quotes or italics.

"Two scones for Mr. and Mrs. Jones," repeated lady Alice, "and two for my husband and me, that makes five scones for tea, and you'd better see to it there aren't only four on the table!"
Yeah, two and two is five, you idiot. "Of course, ma'am," said Bob with his best professional smile. "I'll look after it personally." Now please get out of here because I can't stand any more of this.

Everything that is said out loud, regardless whether it's addressed to another person, an inanimate object, a supernatural entity, the speaker themself or no-one in particular, should be in quotes.

"It'll be just a minute!" Claire looked around the room. "What was I... Oh, right." Her book. "I'll once forget my own head." But where was it again? "There you are!" Stuffing the large volume in her handbag wasn't easy. "Get in! In, I said!" She pushed harder. "Ouch!" She knew she shouldn't have left the manicure scissors out of their sheath. Her hand was bleeding. "God, you have it in for me, don't you."

  • Thank you. Your suggestion makes the most sense. As I read the type, my eyes work harder to distinguish between the italicized and normal font. Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 1:33

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