re: Writing Height in Dialogue

posted 4/30/12

Dear Editor…

How should we write height in a story when the height is either in dialogue or a thought? Verbally we often say someone is five four, leaving out the word foot, but should it be written correctly either as five-foot-four or 5’4″?



Dear Sue…

People speak in words rather than numerals. That’s why you wouldn’t type, “Dude, I called you 2 times!” into your fictional dialogue. Same thing goes for typing a measurement into dialogue. The height measurement in your example should be spelled out in this manner: “five-feet-four.” For a character with a more casual speaking style, “five-foot-four” or “five-four” will do the job nicely. Since internal thoughts are essentially unspoken dialogue, they get the spell-out treatment, too.

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Formatting/Punctuation/Grammar, General fiction
posted by: The Editor
under: Formatting/Punctuation/Grammar, General fiction
Comments to "re: Writing Height in Dialogue" | Add a Comment
    1. Sue Ford wrote (on 04/30/12 at 9:52 am) :

      I love that “people speak in words rather than numerals.” It helps me with a bunch of areas, not just this one. Off to fix my numbers!


    2. Laura C. wrote (on 04/30/12 at 10:41 am) :

      Uh-oh. I do it that way in dialog, but not in the third-person narrative. (And clock times are confusing, too.) Thanks for the heads up, and like Sue, I’ll be heading off to fix my ms…


    3. Carol Riggs wrote (on 04/30/12 at 11:09 am) :

      Excellent! I had always wondered this. 🙂 Thanks for the info!


    4. Percy wrote (on 03/09/17 at 10:15 am) :

      This has helped me so much, thank you.