Quotations and Dialogue

Q. In fiction, when a character’s entire dialogue is quoted material or a quoted title of a work, do I need to use both double and single quotation marks around the dialogue? Thanks!

A. We would recommend using use both sets of marks. For example,

“What did Bartleby say?” he asked.
“ ‘I would prefer not to,’ ” I replied.
“What’s that from?” he asked.
“ ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener,’ ” I replied. “It’s a famous story.”

In the second line of dialogue, the nested single quotation marks remind readers that the first-person narrator of “I replied” isn’t the same person as the “I” in quotation marks; rather, those are Bartleby’s words. In the fourth line, the nested quotation marks are somewhat less important, but consider that if “Bartleby” were a novel instead of a story, the title would be in italics; the single quotation marks play a similar role. See also CMOS 6.11.