How To Properly Use Quotation Marks

Various rules apply when including punctuation marks in sentences.  Punctuation marks include symbols such as periods, commas, exclamation points, and yes quotation marks.  If the rules of quotation marks (along with other punctuation marks) are followed properly, the result could contribute to a well-written essay or novel.  Quotation rules are not difficult to learn or apply.  With diligent study and practice a writer will be able to use quotation marks effectively.

When a writer incorporates the words of another person, he or she must place quotation marks at the beginning and end of the quoted text. The words between the quotation marks are commonly known as direct quotes.  

The following example illustrates this first rule: in a speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses, Patrick Henry says, “Give me liberty, or give me death.” 

If this example had been part of a paragraph, it would be difficult for the reader to differentiate what Patrick Henry said if his exact statement was not set apart using quotation marks.

Quotation marks must be used when a sentence includes dialogue.  Dialogue is a term describing what a character is saying to another character in a story.  

The following example illustrates the second rule: Jim said, “I want something to eat.”  

It is important to note in this example that other punctuation marks are affected when quotation marks are used.  The period is placed inside the quotation marks at the end of the statement.  All periods must be placed inside quotation marks when they're used to indicate that the person has finished speaking.

Commas also have special places in sentences containing quotation marks.  Commas should be placed behind words such as “said”.  For example:  “Yes,” Lisa said, “but I don’t have time to wait.” 

Notice in this example that the comma is placed after the word said, but it is not included in the quoted text.  Also, notice that there is a comma after the word “yes” which is located inside the quotation marks.  Why?  Because the character speaking has not completed her thought until after her identity is revealed.  Therefore, a comma is necessary to let the reader know there is more to be said by the character.

There are other rules to note in the last example.  When there is a break in the dialogue, the first word in the second part of the statement should not be capitalized.  Notice the first letter in the word “but” is not capitalized in the sentence.  

However, if there were two complete sentences separated by the identity of the character, the first letter of the first words in each quoted text must be capitalized.  For example, “What do you want?” Paul said. “I don’t have time to play games like quotation quotes.”

Quotation rules and quotation examples should be studied diligently to use quotation marks effectively.


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