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Internal Punctuation Help

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Updated on Sep 1, 2011

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are used in writing to show someone's exact words, or dialogue. This word-for-word account is called a direct quotation. To set the direct quotation apart, you need to use opening and ending quotation marks: " and ".

Tip: When attributing quotations, as with any dialogue, choose interesting verbs. Constant use of "he said" or "she said" can become tedious. Use a variety of synonyms, like "he announced," "they replied," "he acknowledged," "she murmured," "he snarled," "they reported," or "she queried."

If someone just refers to someone else's words, this is called an indirect quotation, which does NOT require quotation marks.

Example:

Margaret said that the teller patiently told her to please enter the code again.

Quotation marks also are not used in recording someone's thoughts

Example:

Margaret thought the teller had a lot of patience.

We sometimes put quotation marks around a word (or words) to stress its meaning or convey uncertainty or misgivings about its validity to readers.

Example:

It escapes me why Victor, a Wall Street broker, was asked to speak to our Lifeguard Association as an "expert" on rescue techniques.

Tips

Here are some helpful guidelines for using quotation marks:

  • Capitalize the first word of a direct quotation if it is the first word of the quotation or starts the sentence in which it is quoted.
  • Always place periods and commas inside the end quotes.
  • Place question marks and exclamation marks inside the end quotes only if they are part of the quotation. Otherwise, place them after the end quotes.
  • Examples:

      Nancy whined, "I am so hungry!"
      Did you hear her say, "I can't eat another bite"?
  • Always place colons and semicolons outside the end quote.
  • Place a comma before the opening quotes when the quote is preceded by words that imply speaking, such as said, stated, replied, and cried.
  • Examples:

      Cosmos whispered, "I can't see—please move over."
  • When a quote is interrupted, enclose each part in quotation marks. Place a comma inside the first end quotes, then have the interrupting words followed by a comma before adding the second opening quotes.
  • Examples:

      "The first quarter's numbers are in," remarked Ted, "and they look very encouraging!" Note that and at the beginning of the second part of the quote is not capitalized, because it is not starting a new sentence but continuing the first.

Parentheses

Parentheses are used to provide extra or incidental information within or at the end of a sentence. The information inside the parentheses is called a parenthetical comment.

Example:

Ron Kenny wound up with the Salesperson of the Year Award (remember how he struggled at the beginning of the year?).

Note that even if you take the parenthetical comment out of the sentence, it still makes sense.

Parentheses also set off dates and page numbers within sentences, or in citations in some styles of academic writing.

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