Punctuation in Dialogue: A Dilemma. Maybe

Heya everyone-

So I have a situation where I have an NPC asking questions, and the player answers from a menu. Like so:

The NPC asks, "Which of the following colors do you like best?

“1 red
2 blue
3 purple”

So normal punctuation rules for dialogue dictate that I put a quotation mark before “1 red” and close the quotation after “3 purple” as I have done above, since it’s a new paragraph of dialogue. But I think that looks very weird in a menu situation.

Leaving out the quotation mark before “1 red” and keeping the closing mark also looks weird to me. Any advice about preferences here? Am I wrong that this looks odd? The menu is part of what the NPC is saying, so I’ve got a fiddly sitch here unless I’m just being persnickety and it actually looks fine the correct way.

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I think this is going to look kinda weird no matter what, so I’d say the least-worst option would be to make clear that the NPC is saying the options out loud, then just make the options player-facing without any ugly punctuation:

The NPC asks, “Which color do you like best: red, blue, or purple?”

1 - red
2 - blue
3 - purple

(My theory is menus should generally be treated as out-of-world abstractions; I’d put quotes around the dialogue-y bits to indicate they’re what the player character is saying, but using them to chunk out an NPC’s dialogue directly seems weird to me).


Here was a suggestion from a comment on Stackexchange:

“Which of the following colors do you like best? (1) red, (2) blue, or (3) purple.”

Honestly, though, video game dialogue in general has made me feel that (here I cut off because Mike Russo has expressed what I wish to say in a more clear manner; menus do work better as out-of-world abstractions, and speaking a numbered list out loud is atypical in real life).


If the NPC is naming the options and they aren’t complicated, then just having them say the sentence naturally makes the most sense to me:

Bob leaned over conspiratorially. ‘Which do you prefer,’ he asked, ‘red, blue, or purple?’

That falls apart if the the menu items are complex or lengthy. I think quote marks would still be best.

Bob leaned over conspiratorially. 'Which do you prefer?"

  1. ‘Some complex text, which could go on for some time.’
  2. ‘Some complex text, which could go on for some time.’
  3. ‘Some complex text, which could go on for some time.’

Without seeing the game: mimesis isn’t universally important in every game. Only you know whether it matters if it feels “natural” or “videogamey.”

The least mimetic would be the narrator summarizing (no quotes) what is said in a menu, while I feel the most mimetic option would be presenting the options in a spoken sentence. Really depends on the vibe you want. Lots of positive examples across the spectrum.


Thanks, everyone. I made the color scheme thing up for brevity. I do have some complex choices with many words, so making the player type out answers is not very friendly. For this reason, I also think this:

wouldn’t be very friendly either. So I’ll have to go with Mike’s or Drew’s suggestion (BTW-- nice new avatar, Drew!). Thanks for weighing in. At least it’s not just me thinking that is odd.