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Italics or quote marks in telepathic speech?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by S J Lee, May 6, 2022.

  1. S J Lee

    S J Lee Inkling

    Hi people

    Does anyone have any thoughts on the question of telepathic speech, and keeping it different from BOTH verbal speech (which will also happen in the scene) and also quote marks for spoken speech, which will also happen in the scene. A heroine with a telepathic sword as the sidekick, but the heroine also has private thoughts AND talks aloud (sometimes)

    Any good examples of someone handling this right?

    I see on my bookshelf Mike Abnett in Warpsword using --> Tzarkan's voice reverberated in his skull. " ", he said


    J Maxey in Greatshadow--> blablabla, Relic said teleptathically.

    But I will have a lot of the sword talking telepathically - the heroine is a gargoyle and speaks very badly AND has been in a long repose on a mountainside so needs the sword to interpret cos the languages have changed. Or am I aiming too high, and need to get back to basics?

    Too many italics will lose all impact when I DO want to use "standard" italics...?

    I could stick ONLY to "Things had changed, she thought" for internal thoughts and NO italics for THIS...but it feels monotonous.

    Any thoughts, people?
  2. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Inkling

    I've seen this done several different ways, and I wonder if it varies with editor and author. In David Gemmell's books telepathic speech was often just formatted as ordinary text, and it was the context which made it clear that it was telepathic speech. In David Eddings books they used italics, and italics weren't used for anything else. Terry Pratchett just formatted it as spoken speech but then made it clear it was telepathy. Maybe you could do it similarly to the way you report the characters internal thoughts?
  3. pmmg

    pmmg Istar

    I will say that in my own writing, I wrote a long story and used Italics as a way of showing that the language was not the base language the rest of the story was in. In one of the edits, I removed it, and I actually could not tell the difference. I never had confusion that the languages were different. So, it ended up being a lot of work over nothing.

    In my current one, some people have outside forces speak into their thoughts. I am currently using double quotes for speech and single quotes for thoughts.

    It might look like this.

    "Hey, that was my parking space!" said Tom, shoving his palm down on the horn of his golf cart.

    'He stole it,' said the voice. 'He knew it was yours.'

    "Whadya talkin about?" said the other driver. "I wuz here first."

    'He lies, kill him.'

    "I'm not killing anyone over a parking space, I'll just use the garage on the outskirts, and walk in without the gold cart."

    'You're weak,' said the voice.

    "I'm not weak," said Tom.

    "You're a nut," said the other driver.

    Nor sure if I will keep it that way. But, so far it works for me.
  4. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Auror

    If you put the sword's telepathic speech in italics, why would that be too many italics? Does the sword talk on and on for pages at a time?

    Normally, internal thoughts aren't written in quotations. Specific punctuation for them isn't necessary, in my opinion. It can just be this:

    Things had changed, she thought.
  5. Avery Moore

    Avery Moore Minstrel

    When ever I've seen telepathic speech in novels, I remember it usually being done in italics. ^_^
  6. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    We use italics for any language that's not the dominant one in a conversation, including telepathy. For example...

    Niki looked positively delighted, and Jo could feel it in his mind. Her eyes widened in exasperation. No. No. No. Niki, we have to go home.

    As usual, he ignored her. "We are strangers, exploring - "

    If you say "strange new worlds" I'm going to strangle you.

    " - our options. We would love a native guide, if you are available."

    Wolf is going to kill me.

    Live a little.

    She raised her hands in preparation to smack Niki's head, and then remembered their audience, so she ran them through her hair in frustration instead. "Fine, you win," she muttered. She looked at this Lucien and smiled. It was a crappy smile and she knew it. She didn't fake smile well. "Take us to your leader, I guess."

    "Am I translating that?" Niki asked with a cheeky grin.

    "Do it and I'm telling Wolf I dropped you in transit. I don't care."
    RiserBurn likes this.
  7. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I would use italics. For me the consideration is how often and when she talks to her sword. Especially if her sword is quipping or complaining while she's having a conversation with someone else, that would cement it.

    "Would you like to buy some bread?" the shopkeep asked.
    Oh bread, that's how we're going to kill the monster. Throw bread at it.
    "I am a bit hungry..." she responded.
    I bet you are.
    Shush it
    , she gave the hilt of her sword a little smack. Or I'm not oiling you later.

    The italics are a visual way of reminding readers that other characters can't hear the comment, which keeps it flowing smoother.
    Rosemary Tea and A. E. Lowan like this.
  8. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    I recommend both italics and quotation marks.

    Italics without quotation marks certainly gets some style points. It gets even more if it's a first person perspective, but I have to think it'd be annoying after more than, like, a chapter.

    The reader is going to have to shift their thinking from, 'something is going on I should pay attention,' to, 'someone is talking. I should pay attention to that now.' With english we're trained to do that automatically whenever we see a " so the flow of the story is uninterrupted. No quotation marks? Well it's like there's tiny little speed bumps as the brain needs to take a second longer to switch its thinking.

    As for italics.... well I'm reading a story right now that features a lot of mental communication. It also features general scheming, assassination plots and worst of all politics. I don't know if you plan on doing stuff like that, but if you do then it's very helpful to be able to tell just what a character should or should not know at a glance. Italics achieves this handsomely.
  9. S J Lee

    S J Lee Inkling


    oh yes indeed, I only put the quote marks for "making it obvious" - a mistake perhaps.

    I will do ---> A mistake, she thought

    next time!

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