The answer to this question clearly explains the standard rule that when you have multiple quoted paragraphs, each new paragraph starts with an opening quotation mark, but only the final quoted paragraph has a closing quotation mark at its end.

This Wikipedia article on Quotation Marks agrees:

Quotation marks are used for multiple-paragraph quotations in some cases, especially in narratives. The convention in English is to give opening quotation marks to the first and each subsequent paragraph, using closing quotation marks only for the final paragraph of the quotation [ . . . ]

However, neither explains why this is the standard practice. What good does it do? What is it trying to avoid? What harm would occur if it were ignored and people put both opening and closing quotation marks on each adjacent quoted paragraph?

  • so quotation marks are not parentheses (nor brackets) after all - at least not in the UK|USA.
    – n611x007
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 7:42
  • 1
    I have at least once seen a multi-paragraph parenthesis, with an opening ( at the beginning of each paragraph and a closing ) only after the last one.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 19:42

4 Answers 4


“That seems like an odd way to use punctuation,” Tom said. “What harm would there be in using quotation marks at the end of every paragraph?”

“Oh, that’s not all that complicated,” J.R. answered. “If you closed quotes at the end of every paragraph, then you would need to reidentify the speaker with every subsequent paragraph.

“Say a narrative was describing two or three people engaged in a lengthy conversation. If you closed the quotation marks in the previous paragraph, then a reader wouldn’t be able to easily tell if the previous speaker was extending his point, or if someone else in the room had picked up the conversation. By leaving the previous paragraph’s quote unclosed, the reader knows that the previous speaker is still the one talking.”

“Oh, that makes sense. Thanks!”

  • 9
    For me, the main question is not why they don't put closing quotation mark at the end of 1-st, 2-nd, …, (N-1)-th paragraphs (IMHO that's obvious: because it's still not the end of the quote), but why they put superfluous opening quotation mark at the beginning of 2-nd, 3-rd, …, N-th paragraphs therefore making a reader to misinterpret it as multilevel recursive quotation (that's really a mystery).
    – Sasha
    Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 6:44
  • 8
    @Sasha - I suppose it's to remind the reader that the person is still talking. Perhaps the lack of a close quote at the end of the paragraph is too easily-missed visually.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 8:42
  • @Sasha - If you added a close-quotation at the end of the second paragraph, then it would signal to the reader that Tom is probably speaking the third paragraph. The reader would likely be able to deduce that it was actually J.R. them based on what's being said, but it would be more confusing for the reader.
    – Kyle
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 14:22
  • 2
    @Kyle, sorry, you've probably misread my comment. As the main question for me is NOT “Why isn't there a closing quotation mark at the end of the «…with every subsequent paragraph» line?” but instead “Why IS there a superfluous opening quotation mark at the beginning of the «Say a narrative…» line?”.
    – Sasha
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 19:24
  • 1
    Wow, I completely misread your comment. As J.R. said, it's to remind the reader that the person is still talking and confirm that it's not a typo that the closing quote isn't there. Thanks for being gentle with my idiocy!
    – Kyle
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 13:02

The lack of closing quotation marks is a convenient clue for the reader that the quotation goes on beyond the end of the paragraph.

The addition of quotation marks at the start of each paragraph within a multi-paragraph quotation ensures that a casual or forgetful reader is reminded that the paragraph he is reading is (part of) a quotation, which he might not otherwise notice if he starts reading at the beginning of the paragraph, not at the beginning of the quotation.

The added starting quotation marks are in a way inconsistent; but the disadvantage is merely aesthetic, while the advantage is functional, and function rightly trumps form here. The inconsistency does not appear to be confusing in any way.

  • 4
    I disagree with it being a functional advantage - for years, almost every time I saw it, I would automatically think it was a quote of a quote, and have to correct myself, go back, and reread the passage again. Still, +1 for explaining why it's used that way.
    – Izkata
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 3:36
  • @Izkata: Really? A paragraph quoted without introduction? (Thanks!) Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 4:07
  • Look at how J.R. used it in his answer - the identifying speaker is in the middle of the paragraph. That was how I was expecting the "embedded" quotes to read.
    – Izkata
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 4:13
  • @Izkata: Hmm okay, I see your point. But how often does that happen, a quoted but unintroduced paragraph within a quotation? To me, when I read it, the first thing that comes to mind by default is that it will be a continuating quotation mark; then the "J.R. answered" can correct that assumption if applicable. I have never experienced this as a problem, in any case less so than jumping right into an unmarked paragraph in a multiple-paragraph quotation. I suppose, in an extremely long one, a novel-sized frame story, I would not use this style, for the reason you mentioned. Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 4:20
  • 3
    @izkata, Cerberus: Besides, a quote within a quote would use single (or double) instead of double (or single) quotes; e.g. "When did John say 'Jim is right'?" Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 20:44

The rule is in place to allow for successive dialog. Two quoted paragraphs in succession with no end quotation mark in the first paragraph are a continued sentiment stated by one person that requires a paragraph break, whereas if there were an end quotation mark, the two paragraphs would be quotes said by different people.

Its primary purpose is in narratives, where, without such a rule, there would be no way to differentiate between the two.


It may have something to do with the rather archaic practice of: -

“Using a
“quotation mark at the
“beginning of every line
“of the quoted text. This
“practise was actually
“pretty commonplace during
“the Georgian and Victo-
“ian Eras.”

See, for example, this 1759 edition of The Monthly Review on Google Books. (cf. Wikipedia article)

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU. You can see there are ways of getting Markdown to set short lines in a block of text. Can you provide links to or images of such printed text?
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 5:58
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    reminds me of mailing list or markup formats that use the > marker on all lines of a quoted paragraphs in a similar way.
    – herisson
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 5:33

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