There are a few different ways it may be necessary to quote dialogue from a novel or other literary work in an essay.
1) If you are using any narrative or stage directions in your quote to prove your point along with your dialogue, the narrative will be surrounded by double quotation marks and the dialogue will be surrounded by single quotation marks.
For example: When Mr. Bennet spelled out the necessities of formal introduction, "The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only, 'Nonsense, nonsense!'" (Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Pemberly.com). Note, that because the exclamation mark is a part of the dialogue, it goes inside to the single quotation mark. Also note that the quote is ended with a double quotation mark and there is no space between single quotation mark and the double.
2) If what you are quoting in your essay to prove your point is a line of dialogue by itself, then you can treat the dialogue like any other text quoted and only surround it with double quotation marks.
For example: Mrs. Bennet demonstrates her designs on Mr. Bingley when she declares, "Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!" (Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Pemberly.com).
3) If to prove your point in your essay you want to quote a whole dialogue exchange, you can treat it as a block quote. For a block quote, you leave off the quotation marks, indent every line of the paragraph so that it stands alone in your essay as one single block, and add the reference after the period. For example:
In the novel Pride and Prejudice, the early exchange between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet demonstrates just how silly Mrs. Bennet is and how Mr. Bennet teases her:
What is his name?
Is her married or single?
Oh! single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!
How so? how can it affect them?
My dear Mr. Bennet...how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them. (Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Pemberly.com)
Note, that in the third line I used an ellipse to cover up some narrative that, if left in the quote, would have made the punctuation more complex and awkward.
4) Finally, if you are quoting dialogue that is more than three lines long and from the same speaker, you would also use a block quotation.
Quotation Marks with Fiction, Poetry, and Titles
A rundown of the general rules of when and where to use quotation marks.
Contributors:Sean M. Conrey, Mark Pepper, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2016-02-27 11:17:45
Check your citation style guide for specific guidelines on when you should use block quotations. Typically, you should use a block quotation when the quotation extends more than four typed lines (in MLA style) or extends 40 words or longer (in APA style). Although they are allowed in any type of writing, you will likely most often use them when quoting from fiction or literature. A block quotation is removed from the main body of your text. Indent one inch from the main margin (the equivalent of two half-inch paragraph indentations) and begin your quote. Maintain double spacing throughout, but you do not need to use quotation marks.
Gatsby experiences a moment of clarity while standing with Daisy on his dock. Fitzgerald writes:
Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now to him vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one. (98)
When you quote a single line of poetry, write it like any other short quotation. If the piece of poetry you are quoting crosses multiple lines of the poem itself, you may still type them in your text run together. Show the reader where the poem's line breaks fall by using slash marks.
In his poem, "Mending Wall," Robert Frost writes: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall,/ that send the frozen-ground-swell under it" (42-44).
If the quotation is three lines or longer, set it off like a block quotation (see above). Some writers prefer to set off two-line verse quotations for emphasis. Quote the poem line by line as it appears on the original page. Do not use quotation marks, and indent one inch from the left margin.
In his poem "Mending Wall," Robert Frost questions the building of barriers and walls:
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Write each person's spoken words, however brief, as a separate paragraph. Use commas to set off dialogue tags such as "she said" or "he explained." If one person's speech goes on for more than one paragraph, use quotation marks to open the dialogue at the beginning of each paragraph. However, do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the final paragraph where that character is speaking.
Quotation Marks with Titles
Use quotations marks for:
- Titles of short or minor works
- Short Stories
- Short Poems
- One Act Plays
- Other literary works shorter than a three act play or complete book
- Titles of sections from longer works
- Chapters in books
- Articles in newspapers, magazines, or journals
- Episodes of television and radio series
Underlining or italics are used for the titles of long pieces or works that contain smaller sections.