re: Should Split Personalities Get Italicized Dialogue?

posted 9/5/12

Dear Editor…

I’m currently working on a book and in it I have a character with a split personality. Throughout the book I have the two talking to each other frequently, and both are distinguished by their names. My question is, if A (the split personality) is talking to B (the physical person) do I italicize it? Quote it?

Any help would be appreciated!


Dear Damian…

I can think of just one reason to set A’s dialogue in roman type surrounded by quotation marks: if B were supposed to be uttering A’s lines out loud, physically executing both parts of the conversation. But in that case, when another character comes on-scene you’d have to switch to italics to move A’s dialogue into B’s head or else the visiting character would witness B’s two-way chatter. That sounds messy, and thus distracting for readers. Make it easy for everyone by italicizing all of A’s dialogue just as you would internal dialogue—even when B is uttering A’s lines out loud. I recently edited a manuscript featuring a character with three personalities, and I found that after reading just a few lines of the split personalities’ italicized dialogue, I stopped noticing the italics altogether and just sank into the fictional conversation.

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Dialogue
posted by: The Editor
under: Dialogue
Comments to "re: Should Split Personalities Get Italicized Dialogue?" | Add a Comment
    1. Laura C. wrote (on 09/05/12 at 4:21 pm) :

      Yeah, italicized lines work with possessed characters, too. 🙂


    2. emaginette wrote (on 09/08/12 at 7:33 pm) :

      That’s the goal isn’t it? To make it clear and easy for the read to stay in the story. 🙂