Fictional Dialogue and Quotation Marks

What’s appropriate and what’s not? Well, generally, there are three ways to quote long fictional dialogue that spans numerous pages.

The first way is to use open and closed quotations on each paragraph with no indentation.

For example:

“This is why we may use open and closed quotations for each paragraph”

“A second paragraph will have the opened and closed quotations as well”

The second way to use open and closed quotations is to start with an open quotation mark then indent each paragraph within the dialogue as it spans the pages.

For example:

“This is why we may use an open quotation mark to start the first paragraph. This method is the second method used for dialogue that spans multiple pages.

Then we indent the next set of paragraphs while ending our dialogue with a closed quotation mark to indicate the end of the fictional character speaking”

You are likely wondering, well, where is the descriptor language that most readers see with dialogue ( “I’ll explain!” remarked Sheal. )

Generally, when we are doing long fictional dialogue that spans multiple pages the use of descriptor language (as above) is not used. The character is usually telling a first person point of view story in their own words which contains the descriptors.

The third way by-passes quotation marks altogether, this is generally normally used in inner dialogue rather than outer dialogue. It is to italicize the dialogue.

For example:

Inner dialogue is italicized to indicate that it is spoken inwardly to the character themselves. Usually inner dialogue is the character thinking rather than speaking.

When I speak to someone, I use the open and close quotation marks so that the person I am speaking to, and the reader, know that I am speaking out loud, Sheal thought.

As you can see in the examples given above, there are several very effective ways to indicate when a character is speaking inwardly or outwardly. There are other methods, but the general rule I, as a copy editor and layout designer, use are the three most common examples shown here.

For figuring out inner and outer dialogue I use the general rule that if the character is speaking in his/her head – no quotesitalicized. If the character is speaking to someone else – either method of openclosed quotation marks depending on if the dialogue spans a few sentences or a few pages. Both are acceptable for long dialogue while the first example is acceptable for sentences of dialogue.

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