Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Grammar Monday on Tuesday: Don't Quote Me, Part II

Well, here we are on Tuesday, finally getting to Grammar Monday. As much as I felt my SNAKES IN MY HOUSE story was important enough to delay our regularly-scheduled programming, I must now admit that the delay was also because I find this week's promised topic to be about as exciting as watching paint dry. I also find it to be annoying. But here we go anyway, and soon you will be vaguely familiar with how to use other punctuation marks with quotation marks.

When quotation marks are being used to quote something someone said or when writing dialogue, the rules are very straightforward. Punctuation related to the quote goes inside the quotation marks.

"Is this a nail?" he asked.

She remarked, "I've seen better high jumpers before."

"This is the best day of my entire life!" she exclaimed.


Also note how, in the second example, a comma is used to transition from the introductory verb into the quote. It goes before the quote mark. Similarly, if you are transitioning out of the quote into the verb, the comma would also go before the quotation mark.

"I haven't ever been to North Dakota," he lamented.

Easy, right?

Well, here's where things get a little more hairy. In other instances of using quotation marks (such as short story or song titles, referring to a particular word or phrase, or when indicating sarcasm), whether the punctuation goes inside or outside the quotation marks depends on what kind of punctuation mark you are using. Commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks, even if they are not related to what is contained in the quoation mark.

One of my favorite found poems is "Mornings Like This."

I've never really liked the song "Free Falling," but plenty of people do.


When it's a colon, a semi-colon, an exclamation mark, a question mark, or an apostrophe (and it is not part of a direct quote), it always goes outside the quotation marks.

There is no reason to call me "sweetheart"; my name will do just fine.

There are two varieties of the fruit that Mary Liz used to call "bapples": pears and apples.

Oh, no! I got the blue screen on my work PC when I downloaded "Hey There Delilah"!

Did you like "The Gift of the Magi"?

For me, part of "Of Mice and Men"'s appeal is that I cry every time I read it.


I'll admit that the apostrophe outside the quotation marks looks absolutely wrong, but that is the correct way to do it. However, if you choose to put it inside, I won't judge you.

Finally, parentheses go outside the quotation marks if the entire quote is in parentheses, but outside if only part of the quote is in parentheses. (This probably should have been grouped above with the direct quote punctuation, but I forgot to do it until now, so you'll just have to handle it as well as you can.)

There was a small problem when it came to choosing seats ("Judy prefers the window seat, but will climb over me twelve times to use the bathroom, so don't let her have it."), but drawing straws saved the day.

He suggested, "Perhaps we should find a hotel (if there is a hotel to be found in the middle of North Dakota)."


Hopefully that's clear, and I've covered all the various punctuation marks you might want to use when also using quotation marks. And hopefully you didn't fall asleep before you were done reading.

Unless you're an insomniac, in which case I just did you a favor. Sweet dreams!

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

a question for a following monday:
what in the world is subjunctive case?
I actually came across it in an irish discussion and I was like, "huh? ba- what?"
that is a direct quote, by the way.
Also, you rarely see capitals in my comments, because they require two hands, and most often I am trying to comment with one hand, cause there is a baby in the other one. fyi.