T Quotation Marks with Direct Quotations

A direct quotation consists of the words actually spoken or written by someone other than the writer. It is distinct from an indirect quotation, which reports the substance of what was said or written but changes the words to fit the often altering pronouns and verbs:

DIRECT She said, "We are not going." INDIRECT She said that they were not going.

Direct quotations must be signaled by quote marks; indirect quotations must not be.

Introducing a Quotation

In introducing a quotation the subject and verb of address may precede, follow, or intrude into the quoted matter. The three possibilities are punctuated like this:

She said, "We are not going." "We are not going," she said. "We," she said, "are not going."

Notice that the first word of the quotation is capitalized, but that when a quotation is broken—as in the third exam-opening word of the continuation is not capitalized (unless, of course, it happens to be a proper noun or adjective or the beginning word of a new sentence).

Written quotations may be preceded by a comma, or, more formally, by a colon:

Professor Brown writes: "By themselves statistics are rarely enough; they require careful interpretation."

Often written quotations are worked into the text in a smoother manner by an introductory that. The that requires no stop since it turns the quotation into a noun clause acting as the direct object of the verb; and the first word of the quotation is not capitalized:

Professor Jones writes that "by themselves statistics are rarely enough; they require careful interpretation."

If a quotation is extensive and involves more than one paragraph, it is customary to repeat the opening quote marks at the beginning of each new paragraph. Closing quotes are used only at the end of the final paragraph.

However, extended written quotations are more commonly indented, in which case quote marks are not needed.

Quotation Marks in Relation to Stops

With opening quote marks, a comma, a colon, or any other stop always precedes the quotation mark.

With closing quotes, however, the matter is more complicated. In American usage, commas and periods always come inside a final quote mark; semicolons and colons, outside.

This rule applies regardless of whether the stop in question is part of the quotation or not:

She said, "We are not going." She said, "We are not going," and they didn't. She said, "We are not going"; they didn't. She said, "We are not going": why, I wonder?

In the case of question marks and exclamation points, placement depends on whether the stop applies only to the quotation, only to the sentence containing the quotation, or to both. When the quotation is a question (or exclamation) and the enclosing sentence is a declarative statement, the query (or exclamation point) comes inside the final quote mark:

She asked, "Are we going?"

When the quotation is a statement and the enclosing sentence a question, the query is placed outside:

Did she say, "We are going"?

When, finally, both quotation and sentence are questions, the query is inside the quote mark, where it does double duty:

Did she ask, "Are we going?"

Notice that whether it goes inside or outside the closing quotation, the query (or exclamation point) serves as the end stop; no period is necessary.

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