Punctuation Quiz #10: Quotations

By Mark Nichol

All but one of the following sentences demonstrate incorrect style for punctuation and capitalization of quoted material according to The Chicago Manual of Style and other writing guides; revise the sentences as necessary:

1. The saying, “All’s well that ends well,” is the title of a Shakespeare play.

2. He only had this to say, “I have no use for it.”

3. She said she meant that “The simplest solution is not always the best solution.”

4. Let me put it this way: “No.”

5. “Let the buyer beware,” was the lesson I learned.

Answers and Explanations

Use of commas, colons, and capitalization with quotations varies depending on the sentence structure.

1.
Original: The saying, “All’s well that ends well,” is the title of a Shakespeare play.
Correct : The saying “All’s well that ends well” is the title of a Shakespeare play.

Setting an expression off from a framing sentence with commas incorrectly implies that the expression is the only one.

2.
Original: He only had this to say, “I have no use for it.”
Correct : He only had this to say: “I have no use for it.”

When an attribution preceding a quotation consists of a complete statement, a colon should follow the attribution.

3.
Original: She said she meant that “The simplest solution is not always the best solution.”
Correct : She said she meant that “the simplest solution is not always the best solution.”

Regardless of whether the original quotation consists of a full sentence, the partial paraphrase at the beginning of the sentence renders it a partial quotation, and the first letter of the first word in the original must be lowercased. (The change of case need not be indicated with brackets around the letter except in legal and similar contexts.)

4.
Original: Let me put it this way: “No.”
Correct : Let me put it this way: “No.”

When a quotation is preceded by a complete introductory statement or by a phrase ending in thus or “as follows,” a colon, not a comma, should separate the two elements. This sentence is correct.

5.
Original: “Let the buyer beware,” was the lesson I learned.
Correct : “Let the buyer beware” was the lesson I learned.

When a quotation is integrated into the sentence, rather than preceding or following an attribution, no intervening punctuation is required.

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