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Formatting online chat

Talo Segura

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Is there a recommended, preferred, or usual way, to format the exchange of messages between two characters in the story? The scene is where character A is chatting online to character B, in a chat room. In the narration there is this chat between the two. What is the format to use? Quotation, speech marks? Italics? Colours? Proceeded with the characters names?

Also, because it is a chat room and online, character A has a pseudo, which is important to the plot. 

This must be common today and I am thinking must have a usual format in books.

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I'd use the IM/Texting Format we put into the editor for that purpose...



Myr: Whoa! A texting format is built into the editor?

Cia: Yes.

Myr: Thanks!


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18 hours ago, Myr said:

I'd use the IM/Texting Format we put into the editor

That is certainly a relatively easy solution just requiring selecting the text and clicking the IM button, having added the names, it could even be indented if that is a preference.

Having researched a little, I find there is no one standard way to present online chat for book format, it is rather a personal choice of the author and editor, so I guess it comes down to what you think works. 

The point against using a format of NAME: he wrote hello, is that it looks like a screenplay. Other suggestions I came across were for italics, if not used for a character's thoughts, or page justification, left, right, or indents. 

I am sure you must have come up against all these myriad of choices when implementing the IM button.

The problems of what format to choose, apart from your aesthetic choice, is how it might impact further down the line, if you want an ebook, for example, where indenting can cause problems and font changes are not always possible, they certainly aren't with the ebook conversion I use.

More questions than answers, but the one that would work is italics.

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I must say that the IM suggestion might work. And it certainly does looks neat.


The problem I see with it for a lengthy story chapter is that it looks to me to involve a fair bit of work within the text editor. Especially if, like me, an author copies and pastes the chapter from an existing MS Word document. I normally have all my necessary formatting done in the Word document, so that I can just select it all, copy it, and paste it straight into the text editor. I wouldn't normally do any editing to the chapter inside the text editor after that; but I would need to if I were to start using the IM button.

I do like the fact that the IM button uses a different font (Courier new, I think), as that makes the online chat stand out from the rest of the text. As @Talo Segura suggested above, italics would probably work as well - but the author may use italics for other purposes (Talo suggested thoughts). I also agree with his feeling that using "Name: Hi there. You ok today?" looking more like a screenplay.

Personally I think that, if I were trying to show online chat during a chapter, I'd probably do the formatting in Word, using the different font option to make it stand out (always assuming that the font change would be recognised when I pasted it into the text editor).

(Just my thoughts)


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