In dialogue, when a person is addressing someone and then switches to addressing another person, all within the same paragraph, what happens with the speech marks? Is it acceptable to have this speech all within the same set of speech marks or do I need to close one set of speech marks and then open up a new set when the orientation of addressee changes?

closed as unclear what you're asking by user140086, RegDwigнt Jul 12 '16 at 13:30

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  • Can you give a concrete example of what you're talking about? By the way, I have never heard the phrase "speech marks" used before. The normal name for signs like " or ' is "quotation marks." Is "speech marks" supposed to mean this, or does it have a slightly different meaning? – sumelic Jul 10 '16 at 6:49
  • @sumelic: I've heard the phrase before. Google Ngrams confirms its usage. It's a distasteful trend, suggesting that English learners (native or not) are not intelligent enough to handle a three-syllable word. * sigh * – Chappo Jul 10 '16 at 8:19
  • I'm guessing that you might mean something like: "Beth, can you pass the hammer? Ian, have you got the nails?" Or: She turned to Beth. "Can you pass me the hammer?" she asked. Spinning around, she spat out, "Ian, have you got the nails?" Note that it's common practice, if not quite a rule, to use separate paragraphs when separate addresses are made to different people. – Chappo Jul 10 '16 at 8:29
  • @Chappo: It's common practice to use separate paragraphs when different people are speaking. This means if you change paragraphs without changing speakers, you may confuse your readers. – Peter Shor Jul 10 '16 at 11:47
  • @PeterShor: are you saying that a long diatribe by a single speaker would be written as a single paragraph, even if it went for several pages? – Chappo Jul 10 '16 at 11:54

Be clear as to who is speaking and who is being spoken to (see for example The Elements of Style by Strunk and White).

Your options are the following:

  • Chappo's suggestion.

  • You could just write to who is addressed. For example (using Chappo's sentence): She turned to Beth. "Can you pass me the hammer?" she asked. Spinning around, she asked Ian, "Have you got the nails?"

  • All in one pair of quotation marks: She said, "Can you pass me the hammer, Beth? Ian, have you got the nails?"

  • There are some other options, but they would not make it clear who is spoken to.

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