writing

A Question About Quotation Marks

Okay, all you writers (and readers) of fiction out there in the blogosphere, I have a question for you. There seems to be a trend (movement, what-have-you) to do away with the use of quotation marks to indicate dialogue. How do you feel about this? Are you okay with it? Like it? Don’t like it? Why?

Speaking for myself, I’m inclined against the idea. As a writer, I know it can be a challenge just to make clear to the reader exactly who is speaking and how, even with the device of quotes. I can imagine the difficulty of writing the same scene without them and maintaining that clarity in the reader. And if your story includes snippets of interior monologue (as mine often do), how do you differentiate that from spoken dialogue?

It would be an interesting exercise, or perhaps a conceit for a particular work, but I can’t see it as the new standard.

In my opinion, having no quotation marks as the standard has a huge potential to only confuse the reader, possibly even to the point where they give up on the story. And while we, as writers, should be pushing the boundaries of technique and challenging our readers, we must also realize that we are already competing for their attention with countless media that are far easier. The reading audience in Western Society is already shrinking. Do we really want to make reading harder?

Let me know what you think.

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2 thoughts on “A Question About Quotation Marks

  1. I just started reading Plainsong this morning, and author Kent Haruf has chosen not to use quotation marks. As a reader, I agree wholeheartedly that this trend is annoying. As a teacher, I believe that it does make comprehension more difficult, particularly for lower level readers. As a writer, I feel a little disdain for others who don’t “follow the rules”, but I’m not sure how much of my disdain stems from a subconscious fear that the ubiquitous “They” are trying to negate my grammar and usage knowledge by dumbing things down for the masses.

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    • Hi. Thanks for commenting. I agree. I think it makes even the most basic “escapist” fiction very challenging. In this present culture there are too many excuses not to read as it is without writers adding another. And as a writer myself, it can be very challenging writing a scene with multiple characters speaking and thinking and performing physical actions and keeping it all straight in the reader’s mind even using quotation marks. I can’t even imagine trying to do it without. I’ve decided to view it somewhat like the last chapter of Joyce’s Ulysses, interesting, admirable even, but not a technique to be widely used.

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