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question marks

Question marks denote direct queries. Indirect questions do not require a question mark.

He wondered whether he should go home.

quotation marks

Quoted matter, spoken or written, is enclosed in double quotation marks in American English. Single quotation marks are used for quotations within quotations. British style is normally the reverse (single outer, double inner).

Use a comma before a direct quotation of only a few words following an introductory phrase:

Then she said, “If she thinks I’m going to say ’I don’t mind, go ahead,’ she can think again.”

Closing punctuation: American English follows what is known as the conventional order of punctuation. Periods and commas are always inside the closing quotation mark; dashes, semicolons, and colons are always outside the quotation mark; and exclamation points can go either way depending on whether the exclamation point is for the whole sentence or just a portion of the sentence.

“This man,” he said “is not my father.” (American English)

Then she said, “You’ll come to a bad end someday!” (American English)

British English generally follows what is called the logical order of punctuation, where the closing quotation mark comes after the period or comma only when it contains a grammatically complete sentence (has a subject and verb, usually starting with a capital letter).

I replied, “I hated her.” (British English)

In continuous quoted material that is more than one paragraph long, place opening quotation marks at the beginning of each of the paragraphs, but place closing quotes at the end of the last paragraph only.


Because text in italics is not easy to read on screen, it is better to avoid having long sections of italicized text. Therefore, as quotations can be quite long, don’t put them in italics.

Quotations are sacrosanct—they should reproduce exactly the wording, spelling, capitalization, and internal punctuation of the original, except that single quotation marks may be changed to double, and double to single as house style prescribes, and commas or periods outside the closing quotation mark may be moved inside. A few other changes are allowed to make the passage fit smoothly into the work in which it is quoted, including changing the initial letter to a capital or lowercase letter, omitting the final period or changing it to a comma as required, and omitting punctuation where ellipsis points are used, correcting obvious typographical errors in modern works (preserve idiosyncrasy of spelling in older works).

Quotations may be incorporated in two ways: run in (integrated in the text and enclosed in quotation marks) or set off from the text, without quotation marks (often called “extracts,” normally used for long quotations). Be aware of verb agreement when incorporating parts of a quote. If a quote is difficult to incorporate as is, the best solution might be to change it from a direct to an indirect quote. You can omit parts of a quote but you should always indicate this by inserting an ellipsis (…) where the missing material would be.

“To be or not to be … is the question.”

If a change in the original is required to help the reader understand, place the text you have added or changed in square brackets.

“He [Coleridge] talked on for ever; and you wished him to talk on for ever.”

See also [ellipsis]
See also [quotation marks]



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