Quotation Marks: How to Use Them


Man of Artistic Fingers
Jun 14, 2016
Phoenix, Arizona
I have a character telling a story that takes more than six pages. In his telling he quotes other characters. I have been using double quotation marks for every paragraph he speaks and single quotation marks when he quotes a character in his story. And, I ended up employing double quotes and single quotes in many paragraphs. I find this hard on my eyes, which makes me wonder would this be hard on the eyes of my readers?

Is there a better way?

M. Robert Gibson

Unknown Member
Feb 10, 2018
There's a similar sort of question here

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Nov 10, 2008
nearly the New Forest
What you've done is the grammatically correct way, but as you've found it can sometimes be difficult to follow. Conrad, with his narrators telling stories, tends to do this.

What I've done in instances like this is to introduce a scene break and then tell the story without the narrator narrating it eg like here with this story in Kraxon Akiowa Finds Acceptance - Kraxon Magazine An alternative would be to put the narratorless story in italics to set it aside from the other text, though that can also get hard on the eyes if it's too long a story, which at 6 pages it's likely to be.

However, that technique works best when it is simply a story someone is telling ie like repeating a fairy tale. If it's a personal anecdote it means that it's harder -- if not impossible -- for the would-be narrator to interject him/herself into the story. In that case I'd suggest that instead of it being like a story you create a flashback, ie the narrator re-living the incident. When I've done that I've tended to use present tense to make it stand out from the surrounding past tense.

It's also not possible in either technique for the listeners to interject and ask questions (nor for there to be any stage business, of course, such as the narrator lighting his pipe or taking a drink). If you want that kind of thing during the telling then you'd have to keep with how you've got it, but in that case you need to make more of an effort to introduce breaks, and also to trim the story down so it doesn't run so long.


Member and remember
Mar 25, 2013
I was going to suggest Conrad, but The Judge beat me to it. Specifically, take a look at Lord Jim. Not sure a modern writer could manage that.

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