I am reading The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Conner (The Noonday Press). In the second story, there's a conversation going on between Rayber and the barber. The barber starts saying something about politicians at the end of the first page and goes on till the beginning of the first page. Then the quotation marks close, and the next paragraph starts in quotation marks, which is

"You hear that, George?" he shouted to the colored boy wiping the floor around the basins.

Here is a google books link pointing to what I am talking about.

Which also seems to be said by the barber. My understanding of English language's punctuation was that when a dialogue between two characters is written, the paragraph is only changed when the turn of the first character finishes, and the turn of the second character begins. In cases where there is paragraphing within the quote of the first character, the double quotes do not close at the end of the first paragraph, but do start at the beginning of the next one, signifying that the text is still in the quotation of the first character. Am I missing something? Can somebody point me to a punctuation guide in this regard?

  • To avoid confusion, the convention you describe should be followed. If there's a sizeable time-gap between speaker A's first speech and his second, another quote / pseudo-quote verb should be inserted. ..." ]] After half an hour or so, A spoke again: "... (I've used ]] to show the need for a new paragraph.) Nov 17, 2013 at 9:30
  • In the example I have cited, there doesn't seem to be sizeable time-gap, but the first speaker now starts to address another person, a third person. And the paragraph continues like this "You think so, George?" he shouted to the colored boy wiping the floor around the basins. I posted the question to know if there was an extension to the rule when a third character comes in suddenly? Nov 17, 2013 at 9:32

1 Answer 1


The point of the typographic unclosed quotation is to indicate to the reader that a discourse flows uninterrupted across a typographic boundary, viz., a new paragraph. (There is of course no punctuation or paragraphing in speech—these devices are gestures which signify the presence of structural or prosodic breaks.)

Ordinarily that continuity of discourse coincides with the continuity of speaker. In the case at hand, however, O’Connor is presenting a speaker who closes one discourse—his peroration is brief but emphatic, “Shuh”—and then opens another. To accommodate this unusual circumstance, O’Connor extends the convention: she closes one quotation and opens a new one.

It’s a nifty device, which I will have to remember. Thank you for calling it to my attention.

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