I seem to remember the usage of a kind of soft quotation, with no quote marks, but a capital letter and two spaces after the comma. Has anyone seen this? Does it have a name? Example:

I asked him if it was possible. He gave me a dirty look,  No way.

  • 1
    1. There's no such style I know of. 2. ELU editor tool trims consecutive spaces to a single space. So you may have had trouble trying to replicate your example in the body of the question. – Kris May 16 '12 at 20:38
  • 1
    How is that an 'indirect' quote? – Kris May 16 '12 at 20:41
  • 1
    @Kris On the first part, nothing in modern typesetting demands doubled spaces. Regarding the second, that’s not necessarily true, but you just have to know how to do it right. – tchrist May 16 '12 at 20:45
  • @tchrist Which's why I said 'trouble'. – Kris May 16 '12 at 21:07
  • 1
    If you want my opinion on how it might have come into existence, I would say it's one of those variant styles of quotation that writers who don't like quotation marks for aesthetic reasons started using. Another example might be the use of the hyphen or pointed brackets, neither of which I care for much. It's easy to use this style of quotation in sentences where the quoted text forms a part of a longer sentence, because these quotations are essentially embedded clauses. It's when the quotation stands alone as a sentence that it's likely to confuse readers. – Kaiser Octavius May 17 '12 at 15:17

What you describe is not standard in most formal written English, but has been used by a number of English novelists.

Novels have always had a history of stretching the boundaries of both the content and the form of language, and this seems to be a case of that. It seems that longer works make it easier to use such conventions, since the style is used consistently throughout the work. Here are some specific examples using your style:

James Joyce, Ulysses, Chapter 16:

Was she? Bloom ejaculated, surprised though not astonished by any means, I never heard that rumour before.

Alan Paton, Too Late the Phalarope, Chapter 1:

And the lieutenant said, I did not recognize you, Stephanie.

As a matter of style, I'd recommend you avoid doing this yourself unless you are the next James Joyce or Alan Paton and can convince your editor this is a good thing.

A couple notes are in order:

  1. It's not possible in general to describe typeset works as having 'single' or 'double' spaces. Double spacing is a convention that arose from typewriting as a way to mimic the spacing used in typesetting.

  2. Many of the novelists who use the convention you describe also use it with the "quotation dash", as in the example from Paton above.

There are other different quotation conventions too. In the US you find “double quotes” most often; in the UK you often but not always find ‘single quotes’. [In many non-English languages you find «guillemets or angle quotes» or even „these unbalanced quotes or claws“ - there are more, but admittedly this is just an interesting aside.]

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.