How do I punctuate quoted dialogue from a novel?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
How you punctuate quoted dialogue from a novel will depend on what you are quoting and how you are quoting it. See the three most common considerations below.
Quoting Dialogue and Text
If you are incorporating a quotation featuring both exposition and a character’s speech into your text, use double quotation marks around the quotation and single quotation marks around the character’s speech that is within the quotation:
Early in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Miss Baker, upon meeting Nick Carraway, makes the first reference in the novel to the title character: “‘You live in West Egg,’ she remarked contemptuously. ‘I know somebody there’” (11).
Quoting Only Dialogue
If you quote only the speech, use double quotation marks around it:
Early in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Miss Baker tells Nick Carraway that he must be familiar with someone she knows from West Egg: “You must know Gatsby” (11).
Using Block Quotes
When quoting dialogue from a novel, set the quotation off from your text as a block if each character’s speech starts on a new line in the source. Indent the extract half an inch from the left margin, as you would any block quotation. If a character’s speech runs onto a new line, as it does below, indent each line of dialogue an additional half an inch. Use double quotation marks around the spoken words:
Early in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Miss Baker tells the narrator, Nick Carraway, that she knows someone from his town:
“You live in West Egg,” she remarked contemptuously. “I know somebody there.”
“I don’t know a single–”
“You must know Gatsby.”
“Gatsby?” demanded Daisy. “What Gatsby?” (11)
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Scribner, 1953.