Quotation marks are used to show the actual words spoken or written. For example:
- She said, "I love cake."
- She said that she loved cake.
- She said that "she loved cake."
Quotation Marks to Show the Exact WordsQuotation marks can be used to show the actual words spoken or written.
Comma or Colon?When introducing a quotation with words like He said, She whispered, It stated, etc., you can precede the quotation with a comma, a colon or nothing. It is the author's choice which to use, but if you would like a guideline, then use commas for quotations that comprise fewer than 7 words and use colons for longer quotations.
Comma after the QuotationThere is only a choice between a comma and a colon when the quotation is being introduced. Only a comma can be used after a quotation.
(In this example, the comma after pick is shown inside the quotation mark. This is the standard convention in the US. In the UK, the comma would be outside the quotation mark. The best advice to adopt whatever practice your national newspapers follow. There is more on punctuation inside or outside quotation marks here.)
JUST QUOTATION MARKS
Quite often quotations are used without introductions like He asked, She yelled, They wrote, etc. In those instances, no punctuation is required to introduce the quotation.
Quotation marks are not used for reported speech. (Reported speech is usually preceded by the word that.) Remember, only use quotation marks for actual quotes of speech or writing.
IT'S NOT A HARD AND FAST RULE
The majority of people do not adhere to the guidelines regarding the use of commas and colons with quotations. Nowadays, it is acceptable to introduce a quotation with a comma, a colon or nothing. In modern writing, the choice of punctuation depends largely on the desired flow of the text (i.e., how much the writer wants the reader to pause).
Three dots (ellipsis) in quotation (speech) marks
Punctuation inside or outside quotation (speech) marks? (It depends whether you're following US or UK conventions.)
Quotation (speech) marks for ships, plays, books, etc.
Double or single quotation (speech) marks?
Quotation (speech) marks meaning alleged or so-called