Dialogue without quotation marks. Why?

I recently read 1 yet another book in which the author decided not to use quotation marks to indicate dialogue. This is normally a signal to me that I am not going to like the book. I’m not sure why – perhaps it’s because it indicates to me that the author is more interested in form and being “artsy” or “nonconformist” than in the story itself and clarity for the reader.

I have yet to find any explanation of why authors decide to eschew quotation marks that makes me see the validity of this. I’ve gone so far as to google it and read articles and opinions in support of it but to me, these “artistic choices” are not compelling enough to justify the reduction in clarity that the reader experiences.

Some say quotation marks are distracting to the reader but I don’t buy this. Why not then get rid of other “distracting” punctuation like commas and periods? Some say that it makes dialogue and the prose around it equal, blurring the lines between the two, and that’s a good thing. I say that this blurring is not a good thing since it makes it hard to distinguish in many cases who is speaking and further, for a reader to distinguish between spoken words and thought or description.

There must be an adequate payoff for asking a reader to work to decipher elements so basic to a story since this removes the reader’s ability to fully immerse themselves in the fictive world. Being able to immerse myself in a story is perhaps the greatest pleasure in reading fiction for me and I dislike being denied that for no good reason.

In this particular book I referenced above, it almost works to leave out the marks since  there’s so little dialogue. It was a first person narrative full of internal thoughts and monologues. Still, I find myself so annoyed by this authorial choice that it prejudices me against a book from the start.


Charter Member of the Quotation Mark Preservation Society 🙃

  1. This was one of the rare books that I set aside unfinished so I don’t know if that can be considered “read”. Although the lack of quotation marks wasn’t my reason for giving up on the book, it didn’t help matters. 

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