How to Punctuate Thoughts in an Essay


Sharing the inner dialogue of a character in an essay can be useful for advancing the narrative or reinforcing key plot points. Punctuate these thoughts by enclosing them in quotation marks or italicizing the text to differentiate it from the rest of your prose.

Using Quotation Marks

  • Use quotation marks to separate thoughts from the narrative just as you would for a spoken quote. Enclose the text in quotes and complete the sentence with a reference to the thinker, for example: Jim didn’t like tests. “Why must we have math tests every week?” he thought angrily as he plodded into the classroom.

Using Italics

  • The quotation-mark method of denoting thoughts can be problematic when your essay includes a lot of spoken quotations, because the reader can easily become confused as to what is actually being said aloud. In these cases, punctuate thoughts using italics, such as: Sarah always wanted to be a dancer, but her teachers did not agree. “Your feet are too flat! Your turns are not fast enough!” they would say to her during class. These teachers are discouraging, Sarah lamented to herself.


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