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How to Use Punctuation with Quotation Marks


Punctuation before quotation marks

Commas and colons can be used before the start of a quote. Commas are used for short quotes; colons for longer quotes.

For example:

The student sighed, “I still don’t understand question marks.”

In their textbook on how to study grammar, Klammer, Schultz and Volpe claim: “As college students, you participate through written and spoken language in a worldwide community in which your linguistic skills are central to your ability as an effective communicator” (5).

End Punctuation for the sentence

Short punctuation (periods, commas) that is part of the sentence stays inside the quotation marks.

For example:

The diligent student stated, “Punctuation is a useful tool for writing clearly.”

Tall punctuation (question marks, exclamation points, colons, semi-colons, dashes) that is part of the sentence stays outside the quotation marks.

For example:

How many people have ever said, “I don’t like grammar.”?

Punctuation from the original quote

All punctuation marks that are part of the original quote stay inside the quotation marks.

For example:

Researchers asked participants “How many uses of commas do you think there are?” and most answers were not even close to the actual number.

Quotes in Quotations

When you have quotation marks in the material you are quoting, these need to be changed to single quotes.

For example:

Original Text: Traffic always expands to fill the capacity of a freeway, creating a “demand” for more freeways.

Quoted in a paper: According to Gilliam, traffic “always expands to fill the capacity of a freeway, creating ‘demand’ for more freeways.”

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