You Tell Me: Quotes or No?

August 25, 2009

I've recently been reading a bit more literary fiction than I normally do, and several of the books I've picked up use a certain style involving the lack of quotation marks to surround dialogue. So, for example, a passage with dialogue might look like this:

Are you talking to me? I asked.

Yeah, I'm talking to you, the man in the black hat replied.

Go away.

Not until you give me what I asked for.

I punched him in the nose.

Rather than this:

"Are you talking to me?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'm talking to you," the man in the black hat replied.

"Go away."

"Not until you give me what I asked for."

I punched him in the nose.

I've decided I'm not much of a fan of the former, even though one of my favourite authors uses it and I always enjoy her books. With the exception of this one author, I somehow find the lack of quotation marks distances me from the characters and the writing, but I can't pin down why. Perhaps it's because I need to work harder figuring out when I'm reading narration versus spoken dialogue, or keeping track of who is speaking.

Anybody else got an opinion? Do you like quotationless dialogue or not? What are the reasons for using or not using the technique?

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