Speaking of inner dialogue

I h ave taken to using single quote marks to denote internal dialogue / explicit thoughts since I am using italics to denote telepathic communication.

Any thoughts on this approach?

I think it is a great idea! As long as you are consistent with it throughout the entire project and do not use them for other stuff (since it can generate confusion) :blush:


Seconded as a good idea, with consistency being the key, as @Ainoa mentioned.

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  1. (Plus:) Doing it that way gets points for being both minimalist and non-intrusive.

  2. (Minus:) Still it gives up the fairly widespread convention of using italics for (direct) inner speech. I am also ambivalent about the use of single quotes for inner speech – just not sure I’d find it satisfying myself.

My Bottomline:

I think I would keep to the convention of italics for inner speech, and use chevrons for telepathic speech. Chevrons are an alt language standard for speech, which is a virtue.

Chatting My Way There (with alternative):

What if you kept speech and inner speech as usual according to established convention, and considered some other resort for the special thing you have, namely, telepathic speech? Other things being equal, this seems like the thing that should get new treatment.

  1. (Guillemets) I am thinking that telepathic speech is more like direct speech than inner speech is, because it is communicative. And it must also show up in your writing in the form of telepathic dialogue (whereas inner speech does not). So, it is desirable that telepathic speech register with the reader visually in a way showing its close affinity to speech/dialogue. I can see, however, why you did not choose to use single-quote marks for telepathic speech – not distinct enough from double-quoted speech. But using a standard from other languages seems like a good option. «Chevrons come to mind as a nice choice.» And these are easily typable on your keyboard (or are on my platform anyway). They even look like alt double-quote marks – so apt for your fiction’s alt speech!

  2. (Alt Font:) Another way to change the letter forms of text is a change of font. Certainly we have seen this technique used often enough to represent speech that is special (delivered by a machine) or in a special mode (texting exchange). So, there is a kind of established path there to follow. ¶ I gather that there might be a fair bit of telepathic speech/dialogue in you text, so the alt font choice would have to be chosen carefully so it would look natural and not overpower the page. Maybe a sans serif variant of the book’s text body font.

I think I would probably go the chevrons route, myself, and that is surely simplest. The other might be challenging to make typographically pleasing. The chevron approach has the virtue of cleaving to well-established conventions the whole way.

((Of course, this is all a bit moot if you will not in the end be in charge of typesetting your book! If you are not, the question becomes how do you need to encode telepathic speech in order to make it possible to adapt to (unknown) requirement when you compile final draft.))

As mentioned, consistency is the most important thing. In any case, if your work is published, then the publisher will have a house style that they will use.

Personally, I use name: for internal conversations, and retain italics for the conventional cases. So:

Fred: What’s that over there?
Barney: Where?
Fred: There. I think it’s… No, it can’t be…

I like gr’s idea of using chevrons, though.

I think part of the decision of which style to use is how much you want it to stand out. (Edit: For an extreme example of inner dialogue on the page, see Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go.)

Aside: Think carefully before using both single and double quotes. Some publishers use single quotes for speech. I have US and UK version of a number of books where single quotes were used on one side of the pond and double on the other. Again, this is the publisher’s problem rather than the writer’s, but it clearly opens up the field for errors.

Cider House Rules sorry that’s Publishing House Rules. Many US-based publishers reserve single quotes for dialogue between characters.

If you have a lot of interiority in your work then maybe use italics for that type of intra-personal dialogue. Otherwise you will have to be more creative like say Graham Green in Brighton Rock in which he clearly deliniates interiority by the language he uses rather than relying on simplistic punctuation; plus his idea works for publishers on either side of the Atlantic.

Thank you all for your thoughtful responses.

I had discounted double chevrons as it looks “cheap” or “hokey” to me. Why? I don’t know. But there is a compelling argument for their use. I also didn’t know about the use of single quotes in some markets for dialog.

I will probably move to standard usage and grow to love the double chevron.

Thanks again

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Its use is described in The Chicago Manual of Style. Over in the NaNoWriMo forums copy editors working for publising houses take the book as gospel. The table of contents section on punctuation can be seen here Chapter 6 Contents who knew there were so many rules about the use of commas!

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Certainly not I! I barely know there are rules to grammar to begin with!

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