HomeQ&AWriting in spanish - Formatting Rules

Writing in spanish - Formatting Rules


Is there a reference article here on "formatting" rules in spanish? For writing fiction type texts?

I don't know how to search for it really as I don't know the proper name for it.

The only thing I have been able to do so far is to copy what they do in books I read.

It appears they indent new paragraphs.

It appears they don't use quotes for when people speak or think something. They use dashes and double greater than less than signs

Examples of what I am talking about:

In spanish they seem to use dashes instead of quotes, and no commas:

—¿Estás seguro de que lo has visto?—exclamó el Capitán

In english we'd use quotes, such as:

"You are sure of what you have seen?", exclaimed the captain.

Additionally it seems each dashed quote will be the start of a new paragraph.

Also, I see these often enough: « » with text inside. Example:

—Dijo: «Caballeros, lo que vamos a hacer no lo sabrá nunca Parrón....»

I always thought it was internal dialog, but now I don't think so as the above example is not internal dialog.

Sometimes the dashes are on each side of the quote, sometimes not like here:

Y en voz más baja, dirigiendo la palabra a un joven inglés de bigotes colorados, ojos azules y frente calva, le insinuó:

--¿Cree usted que fuera feliz?

Sometimes it's one dash, sometimes two in a row, and sometimes three in a row: - — ---

Does anyone know these formatting rules, like when to use a dash, two dashes, a dash before the statement only, a dash surrounding a statement on both sides, when to start a new paragraph, etc... ??

I cannot make sense of when to use what where. :(

ok update.

A friend has told me english quotes and those wierd spanish dashes are interchangeable in writing, however it's more common in books to see the dashes like this — It probably depends on the region of the writing as well.

I guess I will give up on finding out when to use what and just make up my own rules since it's fiction writing anyways smile

Found these which give decent explanations of the quotes and dashes, or comillas y rayas:



In summary:

Three types of quotes exist in spanish, along with the dash or line (raya).

As a general rule, « » are used in Spain (mainly in books) and double quotes in Latin America (and in many newspapers in Spain)

In printed texts, the order of appearance of the quotes should be as follows: «..."...'...'..."...»

Also you can use the raya — such as listed in examples below:

MARÍA.—Hola, ¿qué tal?

JUAN.—Bien, ¿y tú?

—Si quieres puedes venir —dijo sonriendo.

—Bueno —dijo apoyándose en la puerta—, si no te molesta.

—¡Claro que no! —La tomó de la mano y tiró de ella—. Tú nunca molestas.

For full details, check those two wiki links...

updated JUN 30, 2010
edited by cheeseisyummy
posted by cheeseisyummy

4 Answers


I would call this punctuation

updated JUN 29, 2010
posted by nizhoni1
awesome thanks, searching under 'punctuation' gave a lot of reference results! - cheeseisyummy, JUN 29, 2010
such as this: http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/124396/punctuation-in-spanish - cheeseisyummy, JUN 29, 2010

I went to google and asked for 'writing guide' and one of the choices offers a Spanish translation. I don't know if that will help with how it is done in Spanish writing or if it is just a translation of the way it is done in English but here is a link. If you look on the left margin, you should the ref for Spanish. Good luck.


You might also search under 'writing style'.

updated JUN 29, 2010
edited by LateToDinner
posted by LateToDinner

Ok, those articles don't seem correct comparing what I've read in actual books and how they punctuate sentences and dialog. Also, the articles don't really tell you when to use or how to use the spanish punctuation. As a matter of fact the articles say to use quotes like this "quoted text" and I've never ever seen this in a spanish fiction book. They always use — like —quoted text

I tried searching "spanish dialog punctuation" and others for better results, but it doesn't seem that any english articles explaining how to punctuate fictional dialog exist on this topic? Anyone have hints?

updated JUN 29, 2010
posted by cheeseisyummy

I googled "spanish punctuation rules" About.com has a brief discussion. There are more links to peruse.

updated JUN 29, 2010
posted by nizhoni1
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