Quotation marks are used to separate quotes from the main sentence and attribute them to their respective owners. The most common time you will see quotation marks used is when a writer wants to include dialogue.
The challenge is knowing where to put punctuation marks in relation to quotation marks. Periods and commas are always put inside closing quotation marks while semicolons and colons are always put on the outside. Exclamation and question marks vary: if the quoted material includes the exclamation or question, the mark goes on the inside. If the material is being quoted within a exclamatory or interrogative sentence, the mark goes at the end of the sentence. Here are some examples:
Which character said “To be or not to be”?
The speaker was invited to read from his book “How to Do Anything”; but he was unable to attend.
“What is taking him so long?” she pondered.
“It’s raining outside!” he exclaimed.
Even if you’re including the attribution tag he exclaimed, the exclamation point will still go inside of the quotation marks. The same rule applies for question marks:
“Is it raining outside?” he questioned.
As in the last example, the question mark goes inside of the quotations and is then followed by an attribution tag.
Unlike exclamations and questions, it is not always guaranteed that commas and periods will go inside of quotation marks. For example, a period would go inside of a quotation mark to end the sentence if what is being quoted is a complete sentence on its own.
Susan read, “The black cat scared the little boy.”
Here, the comma goes before the quotation marks. A capital T is used because what occurs inside the quotations is a complete sentence. Additionally, the period at the end of the sentence is put inside the quotations to indicate the ending not only of the main sentence, but also of what is quoted.
If the period didn’t end the sentence, it would read as follows:
Susan read, “The black cat scared the little boy” in her book.
In this rewrite, the comma still comes before the quotation marks, the T is still capitalized, but the period occurs outside of the quotation marks and at the end of the sentence. The period comes at the very end of the sentence because the material being quoted did not end the sentence. Unlike an exclamation point or a question mark, a period cannot be thrown into the middle of a sentence and then continued on the other side, unless of course it is being used for an abbreviation.
“Come read with me,” Susan said to Anne.
This is an example where the comma would be placed inside of the quotation marks. Up until this point, we’ve used examples where the comma is placed before the quotation marks. The comma is placed inside of the quotation marks to indicate that the whole of the sentence is continuing beyond the quote.
So far, we’ve looked at examples of quotation marks being used in traditional dialogue. In the instance of using a partial quote, you will need to include quotation marks around what is being quoted.
Susan said she was “too tired” to read, but I don’t think that’s the case.
This is an example of using quotations around a partial quote. The writer is quoting part of what Susan said to describe herself in the middle of the sentence. A comma is not usually needed to set off or end a partial quote seeing as it is information that would fit seamlessly into the sentence without quotation marks.
Speaking of making quotations in the middle of a sentence, did you know that it’s possible to make a quote within a quote? To do this, you use single quotation marks to set off the quote inside of the original quote. Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say you’re quoting information from a text that also quotes dialogue:
Kate read aloud, “According to Jane, ‘Three cups of coffee are not enough!’”
As you can see, this example has a quote within a quote, and we’ve used single quotation marks within regular quotation marks to denote this.
For our last example, let’s say you’re writing a research paper and want to include a quote from an article you found.
According to John Smith, “The best snack is a handful of almonds” (Year Published/ Page Number).
To quote information from a different source, you would include an attribution tag, According to John Smith, a comma, the quote, and in the parentheses following the quote, you would include the source information. It is very important to use quotation marks when quoting material from a source other than yourself. To quote someone or something without quotation marks and the proper attributions is called plagiarism. If there was ever a rule in the English language that didn’t have an exception, it would be the “never plagiarize” policy.
Quotation marks are overall pretty simple to use in your writing whether it’s dialogue or quoting from a research journal. The main factor when using quotation marks is staying aware of where the excess punctuation in the sentence goes.
Thanks for watching this video on quotation marks. Until next time!