Quotations

By Mark Nichol

When quotations are integrated into the syntax of a sentence, joining forces with a paraphrase to create an extended statement, the first word in the original quote is generally not capitalized. Here are three examples of sentences in which the quotation’s initial word is demoted.

1. Without federal instructions, he added, “People are just going to keep putting stuff out on the road with no guidance on how do we do this the right way.”

The quotation marks accurately denote the speaker’s exact statement, but the writer has inserted a modifying phrase to provide additional context, paraphrasing the speaker’s intent. Because the combination of this phrase and the original statement constitute a grammatically complete sentence, the first word of the original quotation should be lowercased to indicate that it has been incorporated into a more comprehensive statement: “Without federal instructions, he added, ‘people are just going to keep putting stuff out on the road with no guidance on how do we do this the right way.’” (As originally written, the implication is that the person added the comment despite having no federal instructions.)

2. “You can admit that ‘Yes, there is a need in a humane society for institutions that take care of people who are poor.’”

As with the previous example, the initial paraphrase has been inserted to provide context, so yes is no longer the first word of a sentence. Also, normally, when that serves as a bridge from a paraphrase to a quotation, in order to provide a seamless syntax, no punctuation follows that. Here, however, yes is an interjection, so it must be preceded and followed by punctuation: “You can admit that, ‘yes, there is a need in a humane society for institutions that take care of people who are poor.’”

3. The lawsuit also alleges that Remington and the other defendants “Marketed and promoted the assaultive qualities and military uses of AR-15s to civilian purchasers.”

Here, the quoted material was never stated or written as a complete sentence. As a partial quotation, it should begin with a word that starts with a lowercase letter: “The lawsuit also alleges that Remington and the other defendants ‘marketed and promoted the assaultive qualities and military uses of AR-15s to civilian purchasers.’”

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2 Responses to “Quotations”

  • Dale A. Wood

    Much of the material in this article is just too finely detailed for most people to comprehend or even to notice. Too bad.

    So many people don’t even know the difference between “whose” and “who’s” ( = “who is”). I noticed this in a British news article yesterday: “… Romania, who’s air force consists of antiquated MiG-21s. ” Furthermore, Romania is not a “who”, but rather a “which”, “what”, or “it” when is comes to pronouns.

  • venqax

    Actually, in the example presented “whose” is appropriate. There is no “impersonal” substitution for “whose” when the referent is not a person. It may look and sound awkward, but it is correct.

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