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Punctuation Question - Quoting a poem within dialogue


Mawgrim

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I'm currently writing a story in which a character speaks several lines from a poem. I know how to punctuate when someone is quoting within dialogue, but what are the conventions for this scenario? I imagine that each line of the poem would have to start on a new line within the dialogue, but do you need an open speech mark, followed by a quote mark each time? It just looks wrong and very untidy. I can't seem to find anything on Google and wonder if anyone else has figured it out or has had to do something similar.

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In American practice, the character's speech begins with an open double quotation mark.  The inner quotation then begins with a single mark.  (British practice generally reverses this.)

Quotations that span more than a single paragraph have a closing quotation mark only at the end of the final paragraph, but have an open quotation mark at the beginning of every paragraph.  In cases where two quotation marks abut, it helps visibility to place a hair space between them.  If the character is quoting more than one stanza, each new stanza would begin a new paragraph and would open with a double quote followed by a single.

To see how print publishers traditionally handle this, The Chicago Manual of Style is a useful reference, though occasionally opaque.

We can discuss this further in PM's or by e-mail, if you like.

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  • Site Administrator

If you want to separate it out visually, you can use one of the two format options. First icon.

There was an Old Man with a beard
Who said, "It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!"

 

Or dialog (second icon):

There was an Old Man with a beard
Who said, "It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!"

image.png

Just lightlight the text in the editor and click the button.

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When quoting poetry, it's typically accepted to use a / to separate lines instead of using a line break like Myr suggested (unless you're writing it within the narration, in which case that works great for formatting). Within a story I'd simply write it in paragraph form and use quotation marks as normal. That is, the use of double and single quotes per your typically style (if you use double quotation marks to indicate dialogue then you put single quotation marks around any 'quoted' text inside dialogue).  Also, use the capitalization and punctuation of the original work (but you include the / to break the lines). 

Just an FYI, if this is a published/copyrighted poem in true life, I don't recommend putting the actual text into your story. Your work on GA has a copyright notice (hence, your original work). Putting in story lyrics, extensive quotes from books, poems, movies, etc.... other than just the briefest of lines can be grounds for infringement. 

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8 hours ago, Cia said:

Just an FYI, if this is a published/copyrighted poem in true life, I don't recommend putting the actual text into your story. Your work on GA has a copyright notice (hence, your original work). Putting in story lyrics, extensive quotes from books, poems, movies, etc.... other than just the briefest of lines can be grounds for infringement. 

It's four lines of a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. He died in 1822. I thought that copyright generally runs out 70 years after an author's death, but if this would cause a problem on the site I can take it down to just one line.

Thanks for all the help and suggestions. Think I have it figured out now.

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As long as it's a poem that is public domain or you made it up, you're fine. And GA is never the one at risk with an author's content; the author holds liability because they are claiming the copyright on what they post in Stories, if that makes sense. However, I am a huge advocate against plagiarism so I always mention the quoting issue when it comes up so authors are aware of the liability (graphics can be a bit no no too, unfortunately). We also screen carefully for stolen works (part of the initial queue checks) since we all know posting works online does come with inherent risks of theft sometimes, sadly. 

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On 4/27/2021 at 6:37 PM, Cia said:

When quoting poetry, it's typically accepted to use a / to separate lines instead of using a line break like Myr suggested (unless you're writing it within the narration, in which case that works great for formatting). 

I forgot to mention this alternative.  It works when only a few lines are being quoted, but is difficult on the reader for many lines.  Four lines would be okay, but any more than that would be pushing it.

 

On 4/28/2021 at 2:59 AM, Mawgrim said:

It's four lines of a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. He died in 1822. I thought that copyright generally runs out 70 years after an author's death, but if this would cause a problem on the site I can take it down to just one line.

The standard has been raised to 150 years after the author's death.  Before the copyright law was amended in the U.S., 54 years from date of publication was the maximum length of copyright.  Now U.S. law conforms to British practice.  Cynics say that the period of copyright will eventually be extended indefinitely, so that Mickey Mouse will never be in the public domain.

It is understood that an author makes no claim of copyright on quoted material.  As far as quoting works under copyright is concerned, there is a legal doctrine called "fair use," which allows the quotation of small portions of the work, especially for purposes of review, critical analysis, and the like.

Copyright holders will generally grant permission to use a work, but in most cases there will be a fee involved.

Edited by BigBen
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