Two paras, same speaker, closing quotes?

J5V

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There's a convention, whereby dialogue does not have a closing quotation marks when they speak continuously over two paragraphs. This can happen where a natural pause spans two sentences.

My question: do readers notice the lack of closing punctuation, or will they assume a change of speaker? Am I better using a transparent narrative pause?

e.g.
"This is something that he says, for about three sentences or more. Hopefully it is short enough to keep your attention. After this sentence is a pause, but there are no closing quotes.
"After that pause, this is how he continues. We don't include any tags."​
 

Cathbad

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That is grammatically correct. As an "Old School" guy, it is disconcerting to see a closing quote, then the same speaker speaking at the beginning of the next paragraph (as a book I just read did.) If no new speaker is introduced, the reader assumes it is the same speaker when there are no closing quotes.

On another note, I have been told more than one that if your characters are well defined, the reader won't even need you to tag it; they'll know who's speaking.
 
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J Riff

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Kee-rect and very common in narratives from the olde days. Talk on for pages - we don' need no stinkin' quote marks!
 

The Judge

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Yep, that is correct, and yes, it was prevalent in old books. But not everyone nowadays has the same grounding in punctuation as in former years -- or, indeed, any at all -- and there are would-be novelists who don't know the convention, so the chances are your average reader won't either. In that case the omitted closing quotation mark might simply look like an publishing error, causing some confusion about the speaker in the next paragraph for a few words at the very least.

My advice, avoid long uninterrupted paragraphs of dialogue from one person which have then to be split in two to avoid reader overload. I have done it once or twice in four WiPs, but only when I couldn't see a way around it. If I don't want someone else interrupting with a remark or a nod of agreement or some such, then I'll have the speaker do something to break it up, eg taking a sip of water, banging the desk for emphasis, scratching his head.
 
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The Judge

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Yep, not intended as one whole action, rather a list of possible actions -- but I had problems with the site so couldn't edit before you answered (in fact I wasn't sure the post had actually posted until I came back just now). So add an "or" or two as appropriate, or substitute / for the commas.
 

Ray McCarthy

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I've noticed books where contiguous paragraphs have only opening quotes when the paragraphs are the same speaker. At first I thought it a typo. But last 6 months I have been more aware of punctuation and I've seen it in too many books to be a mistake.

Possibly even as late as 1950s. Certainly Victorian. More modern books don't tend to have an entire half or whole page of one person talking, or ranting anyway. Sometimes though you might want more than one paragraph by same speaker without an action break. Also some older writers (Charlotte Bronte, Wilke Collins) might even have paragraphs (narration or dialogue) that are half to whole page with only sentence breaks.

Perhaps it depends on your audience and subject / genre and style of writing as to if such a thing is possible any longer (maybe Alexander McCaul-Smith can do it still?)
 
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HareBrain

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It's still used. I noticed it quite a bit in Stephen Donaldson's latest Covenant books. And he does tend to have people ranting for ages, but curiously, he tended to use it for only the last line of their speech. So you'd have a long paragraph, with no closing quote, and then a single line. And because it was such a short second paragraph, that did tend to trip me up, even though I was very familiar with the rule. I guess he was doing it for emphasis. It emphasised something, that's for sure.

I think I've used it a handful of times in my main WIP, but in every case I think it's obvious that it's the same speaker.
 
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Cathbad

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Possibly even as late as 1950s. Certainly Victorian. More modern books don't tend to have an entire half or whole page of one person talking, or ranting anyway. Sometimes though you might want more than one paragraph by same speaker without an action break. Also some older writers (Charlotte Bronte, Wilke Collins) might even have paragraphs (narration or dialogue) that are half to whole page with only sentence breaks.

Though I love the guy, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the King of the long paragraph! Guess he never heard of the "One Idea per Paragraph 'Rule'".

BTW, one of my biggest pet peeves is the recent trend of putting quotations of more than one speaker in the same paragraph!!
 
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Ray McCarthy

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one of my biggest pet peeves is the recent trend of putting quotations of more than one speaker in the same paragraph!
I'm pretty rubbish at dialogue punctuation, but it's my understanding that different speakers should always be new paragraphs. I can think of no valid reason to break that rule?
 

Cathbad

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I'm pretty rubbish at dialogue punctuation, but it's my understanding that different speakers should always be new paragraphs. I can think of no valid reason to break that rule?

The reason it happens is because the "rules" are not being taught anymore.
 

Ursa major

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My question: do readers notice the lack of closing punctuation, or will they assume a change of speaker? Am I better using a transparent narrative pause?
Which prompts the further question:

Will readers be further confused if we end up with two mutually exclusive -- two contradictory -- ways of punctuating the same thing?
My answer to the question I've posed, is Yes, because readers who do know the rules see a closing quotation mark at the end of a paragraph, and an opening one at the beginning of the next paragraph, and assume that the speaker has changed. Why wouldn't they?


But assuming that the rule is not so much changed as turned on its head, what then? The rule (the original one and its replacement) will become immediately obsolete, as the punctuation, on its own, will no longer provide the required information to the reader. Which means that more dialogue tags will be required, to give the readers a clue as to what is going on.

The problem, though, is all those books that have been published up until now, ones that use the missing closing quotation mark to indicate the continuation of speech by the same speaker. There is no way to add dialogue tags to books already printed (and it is these books that Google is scanning in, legally or otherwise.)
 
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tinkerdan

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I think the rule still stands that several paragraphs of dialogue from the same person or character will have beginning quotes to all the paragraphs and end-quote on only the final paragraph. Usually though it does fall in line with a style guide. In my first book I did it far too often and in one place I missed having inserted several extra end-quotes and so did all the subsequent edits so at least one edition has it both ways with one instance being the 'wrong' way.

I tried to avoid any instances in the second book and it does read better both because there are breaks in the dialogue and most of the walls of paragraphs of dialogue in the first book either looked like exposition or oration.
 
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J5V

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Thanks all. Based on feedback from nearly everyone here, I'm thinking of making the question moot in my case, by interspersing the dialogue with narrative, even though the possibilities are limited by my story framework. I'll try to find a way of avoiding using "He continued", or other sore clauses.
 

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