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Basic Grammar and Punctuation: Quotes

The tutorials below address basic grammar and punctuation errors writers routinely have. Use these guidelines to proofread and correct errors in your papers before submission. For hands-on help, see a tutor in your campus Learning Support Commons.

About Quotation Marks

Use quotes to show the exact words of a speaker or writer.

For example: “Anyone can master grammar,” the teacher assured us.

Common problems with quotes include:

Not knowing where to put the comma. 

Commas are used to set off the quote from the rest of the sentence. When the comma comes after the quote, it should go inside the quotes. So should a period, exclamation point, or question mark.

Wrong – “I hate it when someone interrupts me” , the princess declared.

Right -

“You have to wait until after dinner,” the mother said.

“I really want a cookie now!” the hungry child wailed.

A quote can begin with a capital, even when if comes after other words.

Wrong –  The car dealer insisted, “this is the best deal you’re going to get.”

Right - The car dealer insisted, "This is the best deal out there.”

A quote can be split by the attribution – the who said. You have to decide whether the 2nd half is a full sentence or not.

If the 2nd half is a continuation of the quote, then don't use a capital.

“I don’t like grammar,” the student said, “but I’ll do it for a good grade.” (note how the 2 parts are linked in meaning by the word 'but')

If the 2nd half is a sentence by itself, then use a capital.

“I like cookies,” the little boy said. “I like ice cream too!”

Quotes are sometimes used for titles. This can be confusing. Double-check what the style guide you are using – MLA or APA – requires.