Writing Texts in Novels

Today’s society texting is the preferred communication to keep up with friends and family. So it isn’t uncommon to see texts filling the pages, as dialogue, in novels.

As a writer, I am prone to writing the texts in italics, starting each new text in a new paragraph.

As an editor, I see variations of texts as part of a paragraph, dialogue, etc. To be fair, I scour the Chicago of Manual Style Handbook hoping to find the best information to give to my authors. That isn’t always easy. But with the help of editor friends and CMOS here is the proper way to format texts in your novels.

Formatting Texts in your novel:

  • Precede and follow each text with *em dashes (if you are not familiar with how to make those, see my instructions below).
  • Each speaker will have its own paragraph.
  • Italicize the font.

Here is an example:

T’s incoming, sultry ringtone interrupted her thoughts.

—Are you wearing your high heels?—

—Yes, I am.—

—Which ones?—

—The ones you bought me.—

—That buckle around your ankles?—


—Mmm. Now open your front door and let me in!—

*Em dashes are easy to add to your manuscript. Open your Word document. In the ribbon bar, I have mine at the top, some hide theirs or put it elsewhere. Remember for this unhide the ribbon bar until you no longer need to insert em dashes.

Find the tab insert. Click on it. Once it’s open look for Advanced symbol. It looks somewhat like this. Ω A small window opens. There are two tabs: Symbols and Special Characters. Click on Special Characters. The em dash is the top character. Highlight it, click Insert, and then close the window.

Once I add my first one, I copy it. Then I can easily paste it before and after each text.




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