italicizing dialogue

Should Split Personalities Get Italicized Dialogue?

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