How Do You Accurately Represent Text Messages in Writing?

In the digital age, incorporating text messages, emails, and social media posts in written content can make your characters more relatable and deliver important plot details. Here’s a helpful guide on how to show text messages in writing.

The Role of Digital Communication in Modern Writing

Technology has significantly changed our communication patterns. We exchange quick, short back-and-forth banter via text messages and summarize our thoughts in brief social media posts or succinct emails. Reflecting these communication styles in writing can offer a sense of authenticity and relevance to your characters.

However, balancing the use of technology with the risk of making your story appear dated can be challenging.

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Incorporating Emails in Writing

Emails in novels can be represented in their general format. Providing necessary details such as the sender, receiver, date, and subject line adds richer context. Consider the following structure:

To: Jack Pilsen

From: Anita Boyle

Date: Monday, January 7, 2019

Subject: Newsletter

“Hey Jack, great work.”

Formatting emails with italics and having them offset from the text can help make them easily recognizable.

Showing Text Messages in Novels

Formatting text messages in a novel should serve your story. When the text messages need to be read straight through, you can use this format:

Jack: Ready to talk it through?

Anita: Sure.

Alternatively, you can visualize the display as on a phone screen:

Jack: Ready to talk?

Anita: Sure.

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Text Messaging as Part of the Action

You can have the text messaging actually shown as part of the action in the book, like this:

Suddenly, Anita’s phone pinged. It was a text from Jack.”Ready to talk?”

Social Media in Novels

Social media references in your novel can be kept vague and used where vital to character or plot development, like this:

As Jack scrolled through his feed, he saw a post from Anita standing near a lake. “My happy place,” read the caption.

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Text Messages as Legally Binding

It’s interesting to note that text messages can be considered legally binding under the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act or E-Sign Act if they meet several requirements.


Using modern forms of communication like text messages in your narrative can provide an intriguing and relatable dimension. It enables you to capture the essence of human interaction in the digital age, making your characters feel more real to your readers.

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