Italics or Quotes?

Texting is a part of life. Everyone does it. So, naturally, when I write, my characters are going to do it too.

Back in the day (the 80s and 90s), when someone was thinking in a book, authors would often italicize their characters’ thoughts to set them apart from the narration. Because of the way I write, I don’t do that — in third person, I just show what the character is thinking, and in first person it doesn’t matter because the entire book is what the character is thinking.

But what about when a character is texting?

I personally use italics to denote written words (except for large sections, such as the chapter of Dreaming of How it Was Going to Be where Graham explains where he’s been for the past ten years — in those cases I reverse it so that the dialogue tag is italicized and the narration is normal type). When someone sends a letter, or writes a message, or texts another character, I italicize the words. To me it just makes sense.

But in some books I’ve read the author will put texts in quotation marks. The first time I saw this, it distracted me a bit, because in my mind, after reading books for over 40 years, quotation marks equal spoken text (or certain titles, but that’s neither here nor there). I eventually managed to overcome my cognitive dissonance, but the first time someone sends a text and the author uses quotation marks it throws me off a little.

What’s your preference for texting in books? Italics, quotes, or normal text?

And, on that topic, how do you feel about emoji being described? Would you rather just see the emoji? I’m not sure if every printer can print emoji, and I’m not sure if every device can display it (depending on the reading app used). I personally choose to describe the emoji with one or two words, and while it does feel stilted, at least it gets the point across.

What do you think?

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