Quotation Marks with Multiple Paragraphs

Quotation Marks Covering Multi-Paragraph Quotation

When a quotation has multiple paragraphs, use a quotation mark at the start of each paragraph (to remind readers that they're still reading a quotation), but do not use a quotation mark at the end of the paragraphs except the last one.

Closing the quotation only at the end of the last paragraph makes it clear to your readers that they are reading the same quotation as the previous paragraph.

Table of Contents

  • Examples of Quotation Marks Used with Multi-Paragraph Quotations
  • Quoting a Long Passage
  • Example of a Block Quotation
  • Test Time!
quotation_marks with a multiple-paragraph quotation

Examples of Quotation Marks Used with Multi-Paragraph Quotations

In 1912, the publisher Arthur C. Fifield sent Gertrude Stein the following rejection letter shortly after receiving her manuscript for The Making of Americans:

"Dear Madam,

"I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.

"Many thanks. I am returning the M.S. by registered post. Only one M.S. by one post.

"Sincerely yours,

"A. C. Fifield"

The example above is quoting a written text. When quoting spoken words that extend over multiple paragraphs, the reason for not ending all but the final paragraph with a quotation mark is clearer. It makes it obvious to the reader that the same person is still talking. Therefore, this practice is particularly helpful when quoting a conversation between two or more people.

After three hours of waiting, it was at last my turn to question Thomas. I hit him with my warm-up question: "Would you describe the device as your most brilliant achievement?"

"My most brilliant achievement was convincing my company to fund my research.

"It took three years of persistence and, frankly, pestering, but, in the end, they yielded.

"I think my boss gave me the resources for a quiet life — not because he shared in my vision."

"He can be very persistent. In fact, he can be annoyingly persistent.

You should try being married to him!", Susan half-joked.

Quoting a Long Passage

When quoting a long but single-paragraph passage (typically, 40-50 words or three-four lines), it is a common practice to use a block quotation. (Using block quotations is particularly common in academic writing.)

Example of a Block Quotation

This spirit was widely encouraged by London's leaders:

One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never! (Winston Churchill)

Such encouragement to confront danger without a strategic assessment of the risks and consequences was described by the opposition as reckless.
Note that quotation marks have not been used with the block quotation because the quotation is already distinct from the surrounding text. Omitting the quotation marks with a block quotation is a common practice. However, if using a block quotation, you must check with your local style guide whether quotation marks are used. You should also check whether block quotations are italicized or written with a different line spacing. If you do not have a local style guide, choose whatever looks best for you and then be consistent throughout your document.
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.