Quotes and question marks in thoughts


Hi, this phrase is an internalised thought. Should it be...

What was he looking at? Harrison wondered.

What was he looking at, Harrison wondered?

What was he looking at, Harrison wondered.



See example:

What was he looking at, Harrison wondered.
asked Nov 19 '11 at 00:33 peter New member

3 answers


Thought dialogue follows the same punctuation rules as a speaker's dialogue minus the quotation marks. 

link comment answered Nov 19 '11 at 00:57 Jody M. Expert

Some people prefer to treat internal dialogue as they would a normal dialogue:

"What was I looking at?" Harrison wondered.

Some prefer to use italics:

What was I looking at? Harrison wondered.


Both are correct, although it'd be wise to be consistent.

Note that you'd normally use the first person pronoun.



link answered Nov 19 '11 at 11:42 A Clil To Climb Contributor

I'm going to disagree with you on this one. Thought dialogue is never in quotations. Italics have been used but can be distracting to the reader, so it's frowned upon. Jody M.Nov 19 '11 at 22:40

I'm not surprised that you disagree, Jody. I don't think there's a strict rule regarding this; it all depends on the writer (or the editor). I personally would use quotes if the character was speaking out loud, but if it was just a thought, I'd use reported speech, unless there are many occurrences of such thoughts... See: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/dealing-with-a-characters-internal-thoughts/ (agrees with you) http://data.grammarbook.com/blog/quotation-marks/internal-dialogue-italics-or-quotes/ (agrees with me) I can't find any references to this issue in the grammar books I use. A Clil To ClimbNov 19 '11 at 23:15

Thank you for the link. I can honestly say that's the first time I have seen thought dialogue in quotes. Until now, I hadn't realized how controversial the subject is. So we agree to disagree. :) Jody M.Nov 20 '11 at 04:17

:) In any case, there are lots of differences between US and UK English, though I'm not sure if this particular topic is one of them. I see tweets saying 'Punctuation is always placed within quotes' all the time, which isn't true! Not in UK English anyway! ;) But, that's a different kettle of fish! A Clil To ClimbNov 20 '11 at 08:30

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Stephen King uses italics. If it's good enough for King, it's good enough for me.

link comment answered Feb 13 '15 at 21:23 MewCat100 New member

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