Question about quotation marks for thoughts

You writers out there, do thoughts require quotations?

‘Single’ or “double”?

Or are they italicized?

I have researched this and the answers are conflicting.



‘This is silly,’ she thought. ‘I should just text her, ask her if she’s available to meet for coffee.’


“This is silly,’ she thought. “I should just text her, ask her if she’s available to meet for coffee.”


This is silly, she thought. I should just text her, ask her if she’s available to meet for coffee.



32 thoughts on “Question about quotation marks for thoughts

  1. My children have recently told me that I’m old fashioned and that the way I write isn’t correct anymore. Remember a double space after a period? So I’m not sure what is actually correct. I think that consistency is key. If you start one way, carry on that way. If you want to get technical, here’s a book I used long ago in a galaxy far away.


  2. Double quotes are standard for what I’ve seen in North American literature for speech. I see a lot of single quotes for speech from British authors. Italics seem to be mostly universal for thoughts, but not all authors do this. The biggest key is to keep whatever you choose to do consistent.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just took a look at the book I am reading right now (American publisher). Thoughts are in quotes and don’t always specify “she thought” or anything like that. I’m javing no trouble following
    Also in the story there just a note and the words on it were in italics as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting… I should look at my murder mystery I’m reading, how it’s done there.

      Thank you for checking and reporting back to me. That’s interesting.

      It’s almost as if there are no rules…


  4. I was recently corrected for using quotation marks around thoughts. They should be in italics and you don’t even need to say Charlie wondered or Charlie thought. It’s implied by the italics.

    This is for picture books, but I think it transfers to other writing as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m going to say this once: “I was pretty sure it was always a double quotation mark for spoken word.”

    Sometimes though, I think to myself, ‘why in the world I am even contemplating doing this?’

    I thought that italics were used for specific titles or when referencing a foreign language (Latin, specifically, comes to mind.)

    I’m a crummy writer and have no desire to attempt what you’re working on. So, there’s that.

    Keep plugging away, Lady, you’ll be just fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. While on this topic – I bought my other half a book with very good reviews recently, and she couldn’t read it – none of the spoken passages had speech marks…


  7. I would tend to describe thoughts – because they are not always speech, are they ? (now you’ve got me thinking). Do we always internally verbalise thoughts ? – You could write something like “I wondered why the very important thing happened”, rather than going straight to internal dialogue…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tend to write what my protagonist is thinking as if she’s thinking out loud, but isn’t actually speaking. I just don’t know if quotes would confuse the reader since when she does speak I put her speech in quotes.

      Gonna keep researching and looking at comments here… 😉


  8. I brought this up with my editor. His position was that the correct “grammatical” solution might not work for a particular piece. The quotation marks suggest speech and can be confusing to a reader. He says it depends upon the work, but what really matters is consistency throughout the manuscript. We are, after all, creating worlds–and must do so in a way that best tells the story. From his perspective, thoughts are often fragmentary. Few of us think in a way that suggests dialogue. For this reason, to capture the fragmentary nature of thought, he likes italics. What he really doesn’t like, is when thought gets upgraded in an artificial way, so that it looks like dialogue–but doesn’t reflect how people really think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s very informative, thank you for checking this out. I actually prefer to use the double quotes only for spoken dialogue for exactly that reason…but if there is quite a bit of internal dialogue going on in terms of thoughts, and you suddenly have all these italics…I just don’t know.

      But I do agree with consistency. This has come up with others who commented.

      Thank you so much! I appreciate your feedback.


  9. As far as I know (and taught in high school), both are acceptable. The key is to be consistent. Pick one way and go with it.

    In writing, I see internal thoughts as italics most often. If the character is thinking aloud, then in quotes.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m British. I’ll say that first because rules I was taught at school – years ago now and things might have changed – were the opposite for American works – as far as I could see once I started to read American fiction. In Canada, the rules might be different again.
    We were taught to use double quotation marks – we called them inverted commas – for speech and single inverted commas for thought. Quoting something would require single inverted commas. In American fiction, it seemed to be the other way round – single for speech and double for thought or quoting something.
    If you are going to publish something, by a traditional route or self-publishing, or through a firm which helps you to publish (but they expect you to pay) – you would go by their rules and regulations.
    At one time, I used double inverted commas for speech and no inverted commas at all for thought – there was a ‘fashion’ for it. I have ‘fashion’ there in single inverted commas because I am approximating the term I am using – I think you could call it a ‘fashion’ but maybe don’t quote me on that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to pay more attention when I read fiction to see what people are doing, using. It’s quite difficult to nail down what is correct, or acceptable.

      Most of the dialogue I have seen in both American and Canadian English has been in double quotations, but the thoughts are not as obvious. I’m trying to remember what the Brits use…

      I’m not a huge fan of italics but too many quotes detract from reading…

      Ugh. I don’t know.

      But thank you for your response!



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