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By ending a set of quotation marks and starting a new set, can this show a break in time?

E.g. "I need to read the letter before I can comment." "It looks like he's determined to come here."

Here, the dialogue shows that there is a time break because the speaker would need to read the letter before commenting.

Is this correctly used, and clearly understandable.

I could add normal narrative between, but I don't want to.

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    Some indication of a gap in sequence is necessary, but " " is not a conventional sign of it. Three ... periods in a row between quotes " ... " is better. Some use two, but three seems somewhat more conventional. The Unicode "horizontal ellipsis" character takes up only one space (but should have a space on both sides). – John Lawler Jun 9 '14 at 14:09
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    You should have answered the question John; I would have given you points for your explanation. – RoDaSm Jun 9 '14 at 14:27
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    Thank you, but this is simpler for me. As for points, they're pretty irrelevant. I'm here because I like answering questions; I'm not here to accumulate points. I don't think of this as an RPG, and I'm not trying to compete. – John Lawler Jun 9 '14 at 14:31
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    @John: I think ELU is something of an RPG (and you're our resident "house wizard" :) – FumbleFingers Jun 9 '14 at 17:03
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    @John: Well, relatively speaking you do have a pretty "lofty perspective" compared to most of us here. And I really appreciate the insights I gain from your occasional pronouncements like real language is spoken not written, and all language use is figurative, which are always in suitably illustrative contexts (I like to hoard them away and parrot them back later! :) – FumbleFingers Jun 9 '14 at 17:34
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Firstly, quoting the answer of @JohnLawler to lend context to the rest of my answer:

Some indication of a gap in sequence is necessary, but " " is not a conventional sign of it. Three ... periods in a row between quotes " ... " is better. Some use two, but three seems somewhat more conventional. The Unicode "horizontal ellipsis" character … takes up only one space (but should have a space on both sides)

Now, to try and add a bit of value to his answer, and so give this question an answer to tick to render it completed...

Another technique you can use to show a lapse of time, but also a sharp change in location or subject, analogous to a fade to black cut in film is a section break (note, I was taught at school this was termed ekphrasis, but no google result I found supported this, perhaps someone else knows a better term). It is typically indicated by a unique character (depending on writer preference) centred on a line following the end of a paragraph.

With your example sentences it might work something like this:

"I need to read the letter before I can comment."

"It looks like he's determined to come here."

Here the first sentence is said as the last sentence of a paragraph where, for example, a student asks a university admissions tutor about the suitability of their letter as part of an application for graduate school. The ✪ character (minor formatting mishap aside) is used to indicate a passing of time and place, and the second sentence is now the start of a conversation between the university admissions tutor and one of their colleagues, discussing the student, occurring later and possibly in a different place (determined by the subsequent context).

  • It's a great answer, and I appreciate it. The context in my narrative was that it was the same speaker, so John's answer was perfect, but a it's very useful thing to know for future reference, so you can have John's point. – RoDaSm Jun 9 '14 at 15:12
  • @RoDaSm the section break can be used for a situation where it is the same speaker: In my example above, the university admissions tutor can say both sentences; the first to the student, the second to his colleague. The difference between it and the ellipsis is that the ellipsis is an indeterminate but usually fairly short (on the order minutes) period of time passing in the same scene, while for example, someone thinks about an answer, or is hesitant to reply for some reason. The section break is to reflect a large change in time (10s of minutes+, forward or backward) or change in location. – Sam Jun 9 '14 at 15:25
  • Sorry, you were right. The context was the same speaker to the same person. – RoDaSm Jun 9 '14 at 16:08
  • No need to apologise; it doesn't have to be the case, so you were right to be unsure. Whether the speaker is the same or not when you use the section break is very dependent on the context of the sentences spoken. In my example, it could just as easily be the colleague talking to the tutor, or indeed two colleagues talking, who we subsequently discover had discussed the letter with the tutor. So to be sure of who is speaking when you see a section break like this requires more than just one sentence! – Sam Jun 9 '14 at 16:22

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