Monday, July 20, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: Punctuation with Quotation Marks

When it comes to punctuation and quotation marks, the areas of concern are the introduction and the closing. The punctuation depends on context and the nature of the quoted material. Specifically, the length of quotation and introductory phrasing are two primary signals for determining where to place the quotation marks. Strunk and White provide detailed but succinct rules to follow and some examples below are taken from that text. The Chicago Manual of Style details closing quotation marks and examples from it are also used below.

Introductions A comma introduces a brief quotation, which is enclosed in quotation marks. {Mark Twain says, "A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read."} A colon is used to introduce formal citations, or after the following or thus. {The United States Coast Pilot has this to say of the place: "Bracy Cove, 0.5 mile eastward of Bear Island..."} (When that introduces a quotation, it is indirect and therefore, no marks are used; the same goes for proverbial expressions and familiar phrases of literary origin.)

Closings Periods and commas always belong inside the closing quotation mark. This is recognizable in dialog or with attributive phrases. {"I can't attend," she said.} (Be careful not to confuse quotation marks with the apostrophe which is followed by the punctuation.) Colons, semicolons, question marks, and exclamation points follow closing quotation marks. When question marks and exclamation points are part of the quoted material they remain within the mark. {Which of Shakespeare's characters said, "All the world's a stage"?} {"Where are you from?"}

For more information related to quotation marks, including single vs. double marks, italics vs. quotation marks, both the works cited above have some online content: Strunk and White and the Chicago Manual of Style. Be sure to check out for thoughts from the King's English.

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