Friday, April 19, 2013
Punctuation 101: Quotation Marks
It's time for another installment of Punctuation 101 with your host Jill Williamson.
Today we're going to talk about quotation marks. I've critiqued many a manuscript in which the author used quotation marks incorrectly. In fact, I worked on a manuscript this week, a manuscript that was written in 2005, in which the author (Jill Williamson) misused quotation marks all the time!
It's always fun to go back and see how much you've improved, right?
So, how was I misusing quotation marks? Here are the rules:
Double quotation marks vs. single quotation marks
Double quotation marks are used whenever you use a small quote (that's no longer than a sentence or two). For example:
My dreams were dying around me. I needed to get across town to do that audition, but my parents had grounded me and I had no car, anyway. Maybe I could sneak out my window. Walk. As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” I could deal with my parents later. Once I'd proved to everyone at school that I could win.
Single quotation marks are used whenever you use a quote within a quote. For example:
“An Alpha victory all around,” Mr. S said. “But ‘It is the fight alone that pleases us, not the victory.’ Blaise Pascal.”
“And I would like to add,” Isaac said, “that ‘A date without a goodnight kiss is like a doughnut without frosting.’ And that quote is all me.”
Where to put the period and comma and question mark and exclamation point
The closing quotation marks always come after a comma, period, question mark, or exclamation point. For example:
“Can you believe that Doug said, ‘It is the west, and Juliet is the moon,’ when he was supposed to say, ‘It is the east, and Juliet is the sun?’ ”
When the question mark or exclamation point is part of the quote, they should go inside the end quotes. For example:
“But at least he said, ‘See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!’ the right way.”
But when the question mark or exclamation point is not part of the quote but part of the speaker's dialogue, it goes outside the quote. For example:
“Still, I can't believe he said, ‘You can't act’!”
Where to put the colon or semicolon
Unlike periods and commas, when a colon or semicolon is part of the sentence, they are never put inside the quote. For example:
I love the song “Call Me Maybe”; my boyfriend hates it.
One more thing to note
When a double quotation mark and a single quotation mark are side by side, publishers sometimes put a little space between them. You can put a space if you'd like. Or you can not. Whatever you decide, be consistent. Here is what it looks like with a space. If you add spaces, make sure your quotes are pointing the correct direction.
“ ‘Genius not only diagnoses the situation but supplies the answers,’ so said Robert Graves,” Mr. S said.
This ends today's installment of Punctuation 101.