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Writing Books/Quote or No Quote


I've written a novel that involves telepathy between a brother, sister, and an immortal.

I had a friend (whose major was editing and creative writing) recommend that I place quotes on the italicized conversation.

I've checked the internet for others seeking the very same question and found only one place and the suggestion was to add quotes, but left the option open as the conversation continued. Some said, "yay" and some said, "nay". This only confused me more as I have not found a definite answer to this dilemma.

I purchased your book, "Write In Style," and loved the tools and techniques you offered.

I thought if anyone would know an answer to this question it would certainly be you.

I think a set standard needs to be applied, as many paranormal books involve telepathy. The discussion I read before was that at times it was just a thought and not actual conversation, and at other times it was an actual conversation, both written in italics. To distinguish the two, you should add quotes.

So confused :(

Please help!

First, thank you for buying and reading Write In Style!

Next, the Chicago Manual of Style, the authority when it comes to technicalities in books, leaves up to the author the issue of how to format direct thoughts, which is the reason why you cannot find any absolute answer. It says you can use quotation marks or use italics to indicate thoughts, so it seems logical to me that when the characters are speaking out loud, their dialogue should be in quotation marks, to indicate verbal speech. When they are communicating telepathically, they are thinking, and for that reason, I recommend putting telepathic communication in italics. When the characters first communicate telepathically, then, you need only to explain once that they were not speaking out loud (however you want to let the readers know), and from then on, readers will understand that quotation marks indicate spoken dialogue and italics indicate telepathic dialogue.

As for how to distinguish telepathic dialogue from personal thoughts, I have a not-so-simple answer. Whenever a writer tells what a character is thinking (except perhaps in the case of telepathic dialogue), the writer is telling, rather than showing. Good writing, however, shows, rather than tells. Because thoughts tell, rather than show, I strongly advise against using personal thoughts at all and instead show (rather than tell) what a character is thinking through his or her action and dialogue. He can even speak to himself, as long as it's brief. Example, "Jeez, next she'll have me paying her mortgage."

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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