Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quote Me

"Punctuation herds words together, keeps others apart. Punctuation directs you
how to read, in the way musical notation directs a musician how to play."

~ Lynne Truss ~

How do you punctuate quotes?

I hope the answer to that question would be, correctly. But, as I travel around the web I find that isn't always the case.

Here are the rules, so that as we blog or write our family histories we will always get it right.

Quotation marks are used to set off dialogue, quoted material, titles of short works, and definitions. Do not use quotation marks with quoted material that is more than three lines in length. In this case the material should be indented in what is called a blockquote.

Use quotation marks to set off a direct quotation only.


"When will you arrive?" Mom asked.

Mom asked when you will arrive.

Where a single quotation mark is nested within a double quotation mark, the punctuation is inside the single quotation mark.


“Admit it,” footnoteMaven said. “You haven’t read ‘Shades Of The Departed.’ ”

Periods and Commas:

Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks, even inside single quotes.


The sign changed from "Walk," to "Don't Walk," to "Walk" again within 30 seconds.

Mom called to Susan, "Hurry up."

Susan said, "Mom said, 'Hurry up.'"

Question Mark

If the question is within the quotation marks, the question mark should be placed inside the quotation marks.


Mom asked Susan, "Will you be home after school?"

Do you agree with the saying, "Fortune favors the prepared"? (Here the question is outside the quote.)

NOTE: Only one ending punctuation mark is used with quotation marks. The stronger punctuation mark wins. Therefore, no period after prepared.

When you have a question outside quoted material AND inside quoted material, use only one question mark and place it inside the quotation mark.


Did Mom say, "Will I be home after school?"

Exclamation Point:

An exclamation point should be placed inside quotation marks only when it is part of the quoted matter, just as the rule for a question mark.


The performer walked off the stage amidst cries of “Brava!”

She actually wants me to believe the manufacturer’s claim that her watch is “water resistant to 300 meters”!
Colon or Semi-Colon:

When a colon or semi-colon appears at the end of a quotation, put it outside the quotation mark.
John Wayne never said, "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do"; however, he did say, "A man ought to do what's right."


"Now go out there and quote with wild abandon!" fM said.

The above rules of quotation mark usage are the standard in the United States,
punctuation varies in other countries.


"Quotation marks relative to other punctuation and text,"
The Chicago Manual of Style Online, accessed August 22, 2010,

"Quotation Marks,", accessed August 22, 2010,


Blogger John said...

I believe commas and periods inside quotation marks is an American-only style. I've heard British, Canadian and Australian writers of English put punctuation outside quotation marks.

August 26, 2010 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

And the Brits drive on the opposite side of the roadway, and spell color differently!

Their car has a boot rather than a trunk and they lift the bonnet to check the engine.

Thanks John, I've added the disclaimer. How US centric of me!


August 26, 2010 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger familytwigs said...

...and I live in a flat in a building with a lift....
This could be fun! It's a good article fM. Much needed now in the text/twitter world with sentences that look like this:
How r u 2day......LOL!

Very colourful post!

Sheri (FamilyTwigs)

August 26, 2010 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

ROTFLMAO! Oh, Sheri, you've got it going on.

Yes, this could become a colourful comment meme.

Gr8 2day! Thx!


August 26, 2010 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

OK, I hate this subject! LOL. I swear I learned it differently, and I know I NEVER get it right!

This post will get bookmarked for future reference.

"Quote, unquote."

Did I get it correct this time??

August 26, 2010 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

"Bravo!" And you can quote me.

I also learned that there is no "s" on toward, yet it seems that has fallen by the wayside.


August 26, 2010 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger DearMYRTLE said...

Now, fM, if folks would only actually QUOTE rather than just use the work of another without attribution.

THANKS for the refresher course.

Yours as ever,
Ol' Myrt :)

August 27, 2010 at 5:26 AM  
Anonymous Susan Edminster said...

Hello fM,
Thanks for your article... I thought I knew all the important punctuation rules and I did... I just had some of them wrong! Thanks for reminding me of these correct ways to punctuate.
Sue Edminster
Echo Hill Ancestors Weblog

August 29, 2010 at 1:37 PM  

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