Grammar Punctuation in a Quote |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Punctuation in a Quote

Grammar in American English includes many finer details. One topic that involves several is punctuation in a quote, a subject that still often prompts questions from our readers. In this review, we’ll explore proper punctuation in quoted content.

Punctuation in a Quote: Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks to set off all direct quotations. Quotation marks are used in pairs; the first mark indicates the beginning of the quotation and the second mark conveys its conclusion. Note also that the speaker and the verb should not be included within the quotation marks.

I would like to purchase a new television, Jack said. What models might fit within my budget?

Punctuation in a Quote: Direct Quotations

Use double quotation marks to enclose direct quotations of someone other than the speaker.

According to Theo, Bob said “a superhuman effort will return us to profitability.”

A nuance to note is that in instances where something is being quoted by someone other than the speaker, the quoted material may serve as a different part of speech. In the example right above, “a superhuman effort will return us to profitability” is acting as the direct object of “said.” For this reason, we did not add a comma after “said.”

Punctuation in a Quote: Other Marks

1) Use commas to set off expressions such as he said and she replied in quoted dialogue.

If the attribution appears within a statement, punctuate it with commas. If the attribution follows a complete statement, conclude the verb of speaking with a period. Quotations are concluded with a period as well.

In American English, both periods and commas are placed inside the quotation marks.

He said, “Let’s wear sunscreen today.”

“Good idea,” she replied. “I’ll put mine on in a moment.”

“It’s important,” he said, “because we’ll be outside for several hours.”

2) When the quoted material is a question or an exclamation, the question mark or exclamation point replaces the comma.

“Sunscreen?” she said. “Good idea. I’ll put mine on in a moment.”

Place a question mark or an exclamation point outside the quotation marks when it applies to the whole sentence.

When did you hear him say “let’s wear sunscreen today”?

When both the quoted text and the full sentence are questions, enclose the question mark within the quoted text.

Why did she ask “do you think we should wear some?”

3) When an attribution such as he said introduces a quotation, it might sometimes be followed by a colon to further emphasize the quotation.

It’s as he said: “Let’s wear sunscreen today. It’s important because we’ll be outside for several hours.”

4) Place colons and semicolons outside of quotation marks.

He said, “Let’s wear sunscreen today”; she agreed because of what he referred to as the “determining factor”: they would be outside for several hours.

Punctuation in a Quote: Quotes within Quotes

If a quote appears within a quotation, enclose it with single quotation marks. You might also choose to separate the single and double quotation marks with a space.

The parents were encouraged when Kathryn said let’s keep the park open although the extra funding hasn’t been passed,’ ” Brian said.

If a quotation within a quotation includes yet another quotation, enclose it with double quotation marks. You might also choose to separate the different marks with a space.

The parents were encouraged, Brian said, when Kathryn said to quote Mayor Tilden, let’s keep the park open although the extra funding hasn’t been passed.  ”

Related Topics

Diving Back into Dialogue: Part I
Diving Back into Dialogue: Part II
Quotations within Quotations

Pop Quiz

Now that we’ve further reviewed punctuation in a quote, provide the correct marks for each sentence of quoted text.

1. That’s a great shirt you’re wearing Sheila said I think I’ll buy one just like it

2. But what if the float’s not done by tomorrow Jason asked Will we still join the parade

3. And if we were to go Barbara said would we still receive the family discount

4. It’s like Joseph always says A penny of prevention is worth a dollar of cure

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. “That’s a great shirt you’re wearing,” Sheila said. “I think I’ll buy one just like it.”

2. “But what if the float’s not done by tomorrow?” Jason asked. “Will we still join the parade?”

3. “And if we were to go,” Barbara said, “would we still receive the family discount?”

4. It’s like Joseph always says: “A penny of prevention is worth a dollar of cure.”

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

3 responses to “Punctuation in a Quote”

  1. Don says:

    As a subscriber to your newsletter and a fan of using standard English, I enjoyed seeing this:

    If a quotation within a quotation includes yet another quotation, enclose it with double quotation marks. You might also choose to separate the different marks with a space.
    “The parents were encouraged,” Brian said, “when Kathryn said ‘to quote Mayor Tilden, “let’s keep the park open although the extra funding hasn’t been passed.” ‘ “

  2. James Goodall says:

    I have a query relating to the use of commas and periods in/around mid-sentence quotation marks – could you possibly assist? The BBG notes that periods and commas must ALWAYS go inside quotation marks.

    So, I saw an example online, as follows, where just two words were set in quotation marks mid-sentence, and that a comma was also set inside them:

    You don’t have to remember “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” the documentary about …

    So, I assume the above is correct in line with BBG guidelines.

    However, I’ve also seen countless other examples, such as the below, where the comma has been set outside of mid-sentence words set within speech marks:

    The proposals would be likely to harm many other “non-institutional creators of news”, including freelancers.

    Is the above therefore incorrect as per the BBG and should the comma have been set inside the speech marks?

    Does the same ruling also apply to the closing period in the below example? Again, should it have been set inside the speech marks?

    Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, argued article 13 would take “an unprecedented step towards the surveillance and control of its users”.

    Many thanks.

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