How to Incorporate Text Messages into a Script?

Writing text messages in a script, whether it’s for a film, TV show, or novel, can be a challenging task. In modern narratives, character interactions over text messages are increasingly common, making it critical for writers to develop a clear, consistent, and effective method to represent these exchanges.

Deciding When and How to Include Text Messages

Screenwriters and novelists must first decide when they need to use text messages to enhance their stories. Text messages can reveal character traits, advance the plot, or provide key information to the audience or reader. However, excessive and irrelevant text exchanges might confuse or bore the audience.

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Formatting Text Messages

There is no uniform rule for formatting text messages in a script. The chosen formatting should ensure clarity and remain consistent through the script or narrative.

  • One approach is to treat text messages as dialogue and denote it in parentheses. For instance:

JANE (texting)

“Where are you?”

  • An alternate method is to describe the text messages in the action or narrative part of the script, using capital letters to highlight the message.

John picks up his phone and sends a TEXT MESSAGE: “I’m running late.”

Depicting Text Exchanges

For back-and-forth text conversations, the format can differ:

  • One way is to format the conversation similar to a dialogue. Using italics or an individual symbol can differentiate text messages from spoken dialogues.

John: (texting)

“Are you ready?”

Jane: (texting)

“I’ll be there in five.”

  • The conversation can also be shown by using an intercut, which depicts parallel scenarios without constant scene shifts, typically used for phone chats. Depicting text exchanges this way indicates the characters’ actions during the texts.
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Visual Portrayal of Text Messages

Screenwriters can suggest how text messages might appear on screen. Options include displaying chyrons (or captions) on screen, superimposing the text over the scene, or showing it on the character’s phone. However, directors have the final call on the on-screen depiction.

Inclusions beyond Text

In novels, representations like emails, online chat messages, or social media posts can be included using a similar strategy. Emphasizing certain text parts, justifying text to the left or the right, or encapsulating text messages can aid readability.

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Consistency is Key

After determining a style of formatting, it’s crucial to remain consistent throughout the script or the novel. This makes it easier for the audience or reader to differentiate between spoken and text conversations.


In contemporary writing, effectively illustrating text messages in the script is a valuable skill for writers. The aim is to be clear, consistent, and make sense to the audience or reader. Choose a method that complements the overall storytelling style and enhances the narrative. Including modern forms of communication can make characters more relatable and storylines more compelling. However, always remember to weave them subtly within the narrative and avoid unnecessary details that might distract the audience.

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