Agatha Christie BooksLiz here. Back when I first moved to Denver, I saw a sign that was an inspiration for a post on proper quotation use. And now it's time for the second installment of proper quotation usage.

We know that quotations are used in dialogue. But what happens when you have a pair of really long-winded characters engaged in extensive conversation?

Let's say you're writing the final scene of a mystery in the style of the classic mystery writers: Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Your detective has identified the murderer, and now they're about to tell all parties present how they figured it out.

Clearly, this is going to be a lengthy explanation. Grab a sandwich.

When one character speaks for multiple pages at a time, opening quotations are still used at the beginning of paragraphs, but the ending quotations are omitted from the end of the paragraphs. For example:

“…You can see, Ms. Crabtree, that Mr. Cotton had planned this very thoroughly.

“When Mr. Cotton first arrived in London, he ensured that his sister would be on holiday so that he could use her flat as an operation hub. …”

When your character has finished their monologue, close your quotations.


Take fifteen minutes and write a detective wrap-up monologue of your own. Insert paragraph breaks for your detective to breathe.

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.

Share to...