Hi SErs! Harmony here 🙂
Today, I’d like to take another look at dialogue. Because this is such a large topic, I have spread the topic over a few posts. As the post title suggests, we’ll look at quotes and paragraphs with dialogue today.
First up, the type of quotes you use for dialogue will change depending upon what country’s format you adhere to. American writers will use double quote marks (“) while British writers will use single quote marks (‘). Whichever style you use, if you need to quote within dialogue, you will ALWAYS switch to the other style to encase the quote. See below for an example …
Kenny shook his head. ‘No, he said I should “take care of the problem”. What do you think?’
Above, I show the British way. Below, I show the American way …
Kenny shook his head. “No, he said I should ‘take care of the problem.’ What do you think?”
Did you notice the difference in where the full stop (period) is placed? In “American,” you place all punctuation, except question marks, inside the quote. In ‘English’, you place all punctuation outside the quote. Just to keep things confusing! 😂
Below is an example outside of dialogue to show this more clearly:
We know much, but only through insight and feeling, not through mathematical or scientific ‘proof’. (The British way.)
We know much, but only through insight and feeling, not through mathematical or scientific “proof.” (The American way.)
While this next point is obvious to seasoned writers, it bears mentioning for newbies: Each separate speaker gets their own paragraph. They NEVER share the same line. Always put in a hard return to separate them out. This gives the readers a clear indication that the speaker has switched to another character. Using open and closed quote marks alone is never enough. See my previous posts for examples of two or more speakers.
Sometimes, we need to write a lengthy section of dialogue–when telling a story or recounting something, for example. In this situation, we would break the dialogue into paragraphs to avoid full pages of solid text. Each time we break a paragraph, we need to insert an opening quote mark at the start of the paragraph, but we do not put in a closing quote until the speaker has finished talking. See below …
“I’ll tell you what happened. Jenny went to the store to get the stuff, but then Dave saw her, and he grabbed her and took her to his place. I follwed them, but he has his goons everywhere, man. I couldn’t get anywhere near. Jenny kept yelling and everything. Then things got real quiet.
“I waited for a long time, man, honest. Then I came back here. That’s everything. I swear. I ain’t holdin’ out on ya. Man, please. You gotta beleive me. I told you all I know. So, what do we do now?”
Above, I have shown this example using American style quote marks. British writers would put in single quote marks where I have shown the doubles above.
Remember: The quote marks change depending on what country’s style you are using. Also, a quote within a quote (or dialogue) always needs the alternate style of quote marks to encase it. The main thing is to keep it consistent. If you start with one style, then keep that style throughout, unless you have a quote within a quote.
The take-away from all of this is to enusre each speaker gets their own line. Any section of dialogue has opening and closing quote marks to denote the beginning and end of speech. The only exception to that rule is where the dialogue is broken into paragraphs for the same speaker, as shown above. As I said in my previous dialogue posts: Before we break the rules, we need to know the rules, and we only break them if we have a valid reason to do so to enhance our artistic expression in writing.
That’s it from me for today. I hope you find this post useful. And I’ll see you again on June 25th 🙂
Post One: Name Dropping can be found HERE.
Post Two: Tags and Beats can be found HERE.
Post Three: Punctuation can be found HERE.
Post Four: Talking Heads can be found HERE.
©2021 Harmony Kent