>Punctuate quotes correctly

>Last week I promised to go over the rules for punctuating quotes. It’s surprising how many people just don’t get it, but editors get tired of fixing misplaced quotation marks, commas, periods, and their kin.

Here are a few guidelines:

* Beginning a quote requires beginning a new paragraph.
“Why don’t you buy a new car?” Jane asked. “The Ford dealership has some great bargains right now.”
“It’s too expensive,” Smith said.

* In the U.S., direct quotes–which means you write exactly what they said–call for double quotation marks on each end. “It’s too expensive,” Smith said.

* The other punctuation goes INSIDE the quotation marks. See where the comma is in the above quote?

* A quote within a quote calls for single quotation marks. “My daughter said, ‘It’s not that expensive,'” Smith added.

* If an attribution such as “Smith said” comes after the quotation, end the quotation with a comma because the sentence isn’t finished yet. The period goes after Smith said.

* If the word that follows the quotation is not a proper noun, don’t capitalize it.
“It’s too expensive,” he said.

* If you are paraphrasing, rather than using a direct quote, don’t put quotation marks around it. For example, Smith said it was too expensive.

* If you want to show us an emotion, pick a quote that shows it or include a gesture or expression that conveys how the speaker feels. For example, don’t write, “It’s too expensive,” Smith said angrily. How about, “It’s too damned expensive,” Smith said. Or, “It’s too expensive,” Smith said, pounding the table with his fist.

For more on punctuation, check the Associated Press Stylebook, which is the guide for most newspapers. For books and magazine articles, many editors use the Chicago Manual of Style. A great online reference is grammarbook.com, which not only explains things clearly, but offers quizzes to test yourself.

Happy quoting.

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