Evolution of a Writing Style: Quotation Marks

Quotation marks

Quotation marks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy (Photo credit: alessio.sartore)

Sometimes on Xanga people would comment on how I don’t use quotation marks.  That is intentional.  It wasn’t until I read Cormac McCarthy that I realized how superfluous quotation marks are and that anyone who has mastered the basics of writing dialog can do without them.  McCarthy always writes in 3rd person, and it’s easier to do without them in 3rd.  It’s a little harder in 1st, which is what I use almost exclusively but in 1st it can be done.  As far as the reader is concerned it’s usually just a matter of getting used to it.

McCarthy doesnt stop there.  He omits apostrophes in common contractions that everyone knows such as dont, cant, wasnt, and so on.  He said he doesn’t like those little marks cluttering up the page.  I dont know about that but I do know it makes for a cleaner, more stark style of writing, which is nice if your style is minimalist like mine.

I took it even further.  In deciding to invent a style of writing for the internet I started using common internet acronyms such as IDK, WTF, IRL, TMI, and so on.  I used email style as a model for taking it further, the kind of careless writing people use when they’re in a hurry.  I used convenient misspellings such as “thru” for through, although I know how to spell.  And for another iconoclastic touch I dont capitalize “I” unless it comes at the start of the sentence.   In addition to writing in first person I wrote in the present tense, which gives an immediacy to writing that holds suspense very well.  I’d get comments such as, “I felt like I was right in that room.”

Sometimes after years of writing fiction you figure out how to do it right in a flash of inspiration.  The author of Bridges of Madison County had such a Eureka experience and went on to write more.  I’m not comparing myself to him but I understand what happens.  That summer I went on to finish an autobiographical novel and then the Dana series as well as Since Yesterday, Axel’s Travels, some others.  Suddenly, liberated from stylistic conventions I became prolific and wrote more than i’d have thought possible.

Not everyone likes this style of writing but it grows on you until you feel like why doesn’t everyone do it this way.  And any fiction writer who wants to try it will find it easier than it looks.  


20 thoughts on “Evolution of a Writing Style: Quotation Marks

  1. I am fine with your style of writing. I am 79 and retired from the corporate world. I am both kind of formal and boring. lol

    Good for you.


  2. When I first started reading your stories over on xanga, I wasn’t sure if they were real or fiction. It’s very disconcerting. –jwfarns

    • I’ll take that as a compliment lol. Actually the posts like A Hard Rain, 2nd Gf, and Things in the Night that I posted before Mem Day were autobiographical and happened as they were written. Welcome to my wordpress place:)

  3. Yeah I find quotation marks kind of messy and usually unnecessary. I think I first saw that in Cormac McCarthy too. Nothing is lost, it actually makes the prose/poetry flow better.

  4. I’ve always enjoyed your writing style because your work never read as uneducated. I loved the characters and the story so much more than the proper spelling and grammar, and aren’t those the more important aspects anyway? Isn’t that what makes writing human? It isn’t remembering where to put a semi-colon. I got used to reading your work and now I don’t think much on the lack of apostrophes and such. I don’t need them because my brain knows what it’s doing, and the story is all that matters anyway. If you can communicate effectively then why bother with it? I’m with you, though I don’t think I could abandon it completely. At least not where people can see. I’ve written my share of work without any holds barred. It’s interesting, to say the least. Maybe here I’ll share it. I don’t know.

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