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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."
- She offered the following advice: "Don't drink the water."
- She stated: "Don't drink the water."
Quotation Marks to Show the Exact WordsQuotation marks can be used to show the actual words spoken or written.
- Anna looked up and said: "It's true. Her scatty dog ate the office key." (The words within the quotation marks are the exact words that Anna said.)
- Her performance proved beyond all doubt that she was "simply the best." (The words "simply the best" are a quote from a well-known song.)
- The sign clearly states, "Thieves will be prosecuted." (These are the actual words that are on the sign.)
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 a colon for a quotation that is an independent clause and start the quotation with a capital letter.
- The prisoner uttered: "Leave me alone."
- The minister shouted: "Do not worry. The next time I stand up here, I will have answers to these questions."
- Granddad looked at me over the top of his glasses and said, "I've seen it all and done it all. I just don't remember any of it." (A colon would be better here.)
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.
- Paul looked over the hedge and shouted: "You can keep half of the strawberries you pick." (colon selected)
- "You can keep half of the strawberries you pick," shouted Paul, looking over the hedge. (In this example, a colon is not an option.)
Read more about punctuation inside or outside quotation marks.
Just Quotation MarksQuite 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.
- I believe there really is "no place like home."
- If this is the, "best skiing resort in France," I would hate to see the worst. (The comma after the is wrong.)
Just for Actual QuotesQuotation 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.
- The secretary said: "The phones are dead."
- The secretary said that the phones were dead. (This is an example of reported speech.)
- The secretary said that "the phones were dead." (Do not use quotation marks for reported speech.)
- Edmund said that "he was a good boy". (This is reported speech. Edmund actually said: "I am a good boy." There should be no quotation marks.)