Is it just me, or does it seem like more and more authors are excluding quotation marks from the dialogue in their novels nowadays to you, too? I swear I’ve started noticing dialogue without quotation marks in the novels I’ve read more and more over the past few years– to the point where I think it’s becoming an established literary trend.

If it is becoming a new literary trend, what could be motivating so many authors to exclude quotation marks from the dialogue in their novels? And as a writer or author, should you do it too?

Without hard data or thorough studies, there’s no real way to know if there’s been a substantial increase in the number of novels that exclude quotation marks from passages with dialogue. But I have seen quotation marks excluded in the novels that I’ve read over the past several years often enough to unofficially dub it as a trend. (If you’ve encountered a study or article about this trend, please share a link to it in the comments.)

I’ve also noticed that this trend of excluding quotation marks from dialogue tends to occur in literary fiction more than in any other genre. I don’t recall reading a piece of contemporary fiction or historical fiction that excluded quotation marks, for example. Have you?

So why would authors, especially those writing literary fiction, exclude quotation marks from dialogue in their novels?

Potential Reasons Fiction Authors Exclude Quotation Marks from Dialogue

  1. Unnecessary: In some cases, quotation marks may not be necessary for clarity. For example, if there are only two characters in a scene and it is clear who is speaking, quotation marks may be redundant.
  2. Formatting: Some authors may choose not to use quotation marks for formatting reasons, such as to create a different visual effect on the page or to avoid clutter.
  3. Stylistic Choice: Some authors may choose to omit quotation marks as a stylistic choice. Omitting quotation marks can create a more fluid or natural feel to their writing, especially if the author is going for a more literary or experimental style. For example, an author may choose not to use quotation marks to convey a particular point of view or narrative style. In a first-person narrative, for instance, the character’s thoughts and dialogue may blend together without the need for quotation marks to distinguish between them.
  4. Experimentation: Some authors may choose to leave out quotation marks as part of their artistic expression, to create a particular effect, or to challenge traditional conventions of writing. This would explain why it’s more common in works of literary fiction, as opposed to other more conventional and popular genres of fiction.

Should You Exclude Quotation Marks from Your Novel?

Personally, I am still on the fence about whether an author should or should not exclude quotation marks from passages of dialogue. I do think that it should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Additionally, it should be noted that it’s often assumed that authors of literary fiction will play with grammar rules, literary styles, and language trends in order to create their own unique artworks, while this is not often the case with other fiction genres. I’m afraid that if authors outside of the literary fiction genre start excluding quotation marks from their passages of dialogue as well, it will only confuse readers and likely hinder those works and their narratives, as opposed to enhancing them.

I must also mention, however, that so many literary fiction novels exclude quotation marks nowadays– too many– to the point that it’s almost becoming clichรฉ and not an intentional artistic stylistic choice. In fact, I’ve read quite a few pieces of literary fiction over the past year or so in which excluding quotation marks hindered their narrative flows and revealed no artistic intention. Sometimes I even became flat-out confused about who was talking, what was being said, and why I should care.

Bottom line, if excluding quotation marks from the dialogue in your fiction isn’t going to make your novel better in any way shape, or form, it’s probably best to leave them where they belong.

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