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quotations

Page history last edited by Laura Gibbs 10 years, 7 months ago

 

GRAMMAR | Commas - Run-Ons (Comma Splices) - Quotation Marks

 

Quotation of Direct Speech

 

When someone's written or spoken words, and also their unspoken thoughts, are repeated directly, they are put into quotation marks. Do you know the special punctuation rules for direct quotation? Test your knowledge! (Reload the page for a new question.) 

 

 

Quotation Marks and Quoted Speech

 

The first rule of quoted speech is that it goes inside quotation marks. Quotation marks come in pairs, with one set of quotation marks at the beginning of the quoted words, and another set of quotation marks at the end. It does not matter how many sentences are being quoted; you use one set of quotation marks where the quotation begins, and the other set of quotation marks when the quote is over.

 

  • "It is God who winds our sundials."
  • "Good things, when short, are twice as good."

    (examples of a single sentence inside quotation marks)

  • "You can pretend to be serious. You can't pretend to be witty."

    (here you see two sentences inside the quotation marks)

 

Verbs of Speaking BEFORE the Quoted Speech

 

When you want to explain who said or wrote or thought these words, you attach the quoted speech to the verb of speaking (or writing or thinking) with a comma. The comma goes directly before the quotation mark:

 

  • Original quotation: "It is God who winds our sundials."

    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg said,  "It is God who winds our sundials."

    (a comma comes after the verb of speaking and before the quotation)

  • Original quotation: "Good things, when short, are twice as good."

    Baltasar Gracián said, "Good things, when short, are twice as good."

  • Original quotation: "You can pretend to be serious. You can't pretend to be witty."

    Sacha Guitry said, "You can pretend to be serious. You can't pretend to be witty."

 

In addition to the comma after the verb of speaking, notice also that the quotation begins with a capital letter, as if it were the beginning of a new sentence.

 

Verbs of Speaking AFTER the Quoted Speech

 

If the verb of speaking will go after the quoted speech, you remove the final period of the quoted speech and REPLACE it with a comma:

 

  • Original quotation: "It is God who winds our sundials."

    "It is God who winds our sundials," said Georg Christoph Lichtenberg.

    (the period at the end of the quotation is replaced with a comma before the verb of speaking)
  • Original quotation: "Good things, when short, are twice as good."

    "Good things, when short, are twice as good," said Baltasar Gracián.

  • Original quotation: "You can pretend to be serious. You can't pretend to be witty."

    "You can pretend to be serious. You can't pretend to be witty," said Sacha Guitry.

 

Note, however, that if the quotation ends with a question mark, you keep the question mark and do NOT use a comma:

 

  • Original quotation: "Who is going to bell the cat?"

    "Who is going to bell the cat?" asked the mouse.

 

Likewise, if the quotation ends with an exclamation mark, you keep the exclamation mark and do NOT use a comma:

 

  • Original quotation: "You cannot step into the same river twice!"

    "You cannot step into the same river twice!" said Heraclitus.

 

Be sure that you keep the question mark (or exclamation mark) INSIDE the quotation. It goes at the end of the quotation, not at the end of the sentence itself.

 

Verbs of Speaking INSERTED INTO the Quoted Speech

 

If you want to insert the verb of speaking into the quoted speech, you will end up with TWO sets of quotation marks. You will need to close the quotation before you begin the verb of speaking, and then open the quotation after the verb of speaking, and close it again at the end of the sentence.

 

If the quotation is a single sentence, you use a comma before the verb of speaking and again after the verb of speaking:

 

  • Original quotation: "If you wish to advance into the infinite, explore the finite in all directions."

    "If you wish to advance into the infinite," said Goethe, "explore the finite in all directions."

    (notice the comma both before AND after the verb of speaking)

     

If the part of the quotation before the verb of speaking ends with a complete sentence, you still use a comma BEFORE  the verb of speaking, but you then put a period after the verb of speaking and begin a new sentence, with the first word capitalized, as the quotation continues:

 

  • Original quotation: "You can pretend to be serious. You can't pretend to be witty."

    "You can pretend to be serious," said Sacha Guitry. "You can't pretend to be witty."

    (notice that the first part of the quotation is a complete sentence, so there is a period after the verb of speaking, and the second part of the quotation is a new sentence)

 

The best way to think about this last example is that it is really two different quotation statements, where the first quotation has a verb of speaking, and the second part is a quotation without a verb of speaking:

 

(1) "You can pretend to be serious," said Sacha Guitry.

(2) "You can't pretend to be witty."

 

As you can see, there are two full-fledged sentences here, each ending in a period. The first sentence is a quotation with a verb of speaking, and the second sentence is a quotation without a verb of speaking.

 


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