Writing Texts?

Quick discussion question–how do you write conversations via text?

Example One: 

I texted Russwin, “Status when you can.”

A moment later he texted back, “Not good. Details later.”

Example Two: 

I texted Russwin: Status when you can.

A moment later he texted back: Not good. Details later.

Example Three: 

I texted Russwin, Status when you can.

A moment later he texted back, Not good. Details later.

Which way is the most natural feeling to read?  Or is there another way that seems better to you?

Texting has become such a ubiquitous part of our lives, but I haven’t seen any discussion on how to portray it in fiction.  Has anyone written it into any style guides?

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About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in On Publishing, On Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Writing Texts?

  1. Looked it up. I found various methods because it’s still fairly new. Your first example appears to be a common one. Another is to have narration explain the text such as “I got a text from Joe, wanting to know if I fancied a beer later.”

    • MishaBurnett says:

      There is going to be a lot of texting in this book, and I think I’m going to go with it just as dialogue.

      • Elizabeth M. Willey says:

        I think that makes the most sense. We are conditioned to see the quotes and know that it is something being said to another person. Makes sense to use that for text communication as well. I wonder what the writing rules are for including a letter to someone in the midst of the narrative? I would imagine it might be similar.

      • MishaBurnett says:

        Letters are usually printed as indented text, if they are over a sentence or two.

  2. Dave Higgins says:

    I have not seen it in a style guide.

    I typeset it like speech but with a different symbol than double quotes: either ~ or * depending on which looks better, and whether there are other types of non-verbal message in the story as well.

  3. What? You don’t have a screenshot of your cell phone? J/K. 🙂

  4. kingmidget says:

    I would go with example #1. Think of it just as you would dialogue.

  5. sknicholls says:

    It is dialog. I would treat it like #1. One reason why: methods nowadays are always subject to change…rapidly, dialog will always be dialog.

  6. KokkieH says:

    At the risk of merely repeating everyone else, #1 feels natural from a reading perspective. Texting is just a non-verbal form of speaking, after all. Why treat it any different? Where it could get tricky is if someone’s having a verbal conversation while texting someone else at the same time.

    • MishaBurnett says:

      I can usually handle multiple simultaneous conversations–it happens a lot in my books, since James & Catskinner communicate mentally at the same time other people are talking to James audibly.

  7. Oloriel says:

    Number one seams most natural to me and also most clear regarding what is what when I am reading.

  8. No one suggested single quotes (since you are quoting something, but it isn’t dialogue):

    I texted Russwin, ‘Status when you can.’

    A moment later he texted back, ‘Not good. Details later.’

    • MishaBurnett says:

      When I see single quotes I tend to think of quoted material within a quote, because that’s the most common usage in the US (in the UK, I believe they use single quotes on the outside and double quotes on the inside, which actually makes more sense).

      For example:

      “My favorite Star Trek episode is ‘Who Mourns For Adonis’, actually,” she said dionysianly.

      Consequently, single quotes make me look for the exterior set of quotes and I find it jarring.

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