Recently, a wonderfully talented writer that we know asked us a very interesting question: how do you format a text message in a book?
Ahhh, the text message, that elusive creature that has taken over so much of modern communication and is now wreaking havoc in the lives of writers everywhere. When many of us were learning the ins and outs of grammar and punctuation, text messages didn’t exist. Italics and bolds didn’t either, for that matter! So for many, formatting text messages within a larger work is unknown territory. Luckily, the answer is pretty simple.
When formatting a text message, the easiest way to think about it would be to treat it as if you were having the reader reading a passage in a book. That means that it would be given its own paragraph and would simply be italicized. You do not need quotation marks unless someone is reading the text message out loud to someone else. As long as you are just trying to show that it is the message on the screen or being read in one’s head, it would simply be italicized.
Here’s an example:
John sent a text to Bob.
Hey, man. What are you doing?
The second line is italicized since it is the body of the text message.
Also, please notice that text message is actually spelled out. A book is a form of communication, and not everyone is accustomed to text-speak. Things like “ROFL” (rolling on the floor laughing) may not be familiar to everyone. The easier you can make it on the reader, the better— especially if you are a writer who is just starting out.
There are, of course, always exceptions. If you have a specific audience with a high likelihood of understanding text-speak, such as young adult, then it would probably be okay to use text-speak. The best thing to keep in mind is your audience: if there’s a chance that you may turn readers off to your book by flooding it with text-speak text messages, then spelling things out properly is definitely something you will want to consider.
We hope this article will help you along your writing journey. Keep writing and be sure to send us your questions as you run across them. We’re happy to help!