9 Quotations and direct speech

9.5 Plays

Publishers have their own conventions for the presentation of plays, quotations from which may be treated as run-on quotations, or as prose or poetry extracts, with no strict regard to the original layout, spacing, or styling of characters’ names. Any sensible pattern is acceptable if consistently applied. If a speaker’s name is included in the quotation it is best printed as a displayed extract.

To follow Oxford’s preferred format in extracts from plays, set speakers’ names in small capitals, ranged full left. In verse plays run the speaker’s name into the first line of dialogue; the verse follows the speaker’s name after an em space and is not centred; indent subsequent lines by the same speaker 1 em from the left. Indent turnovers 2 ems in verse plays, 1 em in prose plays:

Her reply prompts Oedipus to bemoan his sons’ passivity:

This is apparent in the following exchange between them:

Particularly in verse plays a single line is sometimes made up of the speeches of more than one character and is set as more than one line of type. The parts are progressively indented, with an interword space clear to the right of the previous part’s end, repeating as necessary. Ideally this layout should be preserved in the quoted extract, as in the following extreme example:

king john



My lord.

king john

A grave.


He shall not live.

king john


Do not include stage directions in extracts from plays unless they are relevant to the matter under discussion (in which case their styling in the original may be preserved or adapted). Similarly, line numbers should not normally be included.

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New Hart's Rules


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