Capitalizing and Punctuating Quotations

By Mark Nichol

Quotations consisting of complete sentences should always be capitalized, as explained in the discussions and shown in the revisions to the following examples. (Note, too, that each sentence has a punctuation error.)

1. The pendant around his neck reads “all things are possible.”

“All things are possible” is a complete sentence that follows an attribution, and therefore the first word must be capitalized: “The pendant around his neck reads, ‘All things are possible.’” (Also, an attribution must be set off from the quotation by a comma.)

2. It’s important to remember to ask ourselves, “would I spend my own money this way”?

The question “Would I spend my own money this way?” is complete, so capitalization of the first word is required: “It’s important to remember to ask ourselves, ‘Would I spend my own money this way?’” (Also, note that the quotation, not the framing sentence, is a question, so the question mark must precede the close quotation mark.)

3. He reassured customers who are concerned about their safety saying, “we are also going to make sure our commitment to safety is unwavering.”

This quotation may appear to be a continuation of the main clause of the sentence, but it is a complete sentence on its own and should be capitalized: “He reassured customers who are concerned about their safety, saying, ‘We are also going to make sure our commitment to safety is unwavering.’” (Also, saying and the quotation constitute a subordinate clause, so to set the clauses off from each other, a comma must precede saying.)

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1 Response to “Capitalizing and Punctuating Quotations”

  • Lynn

    Mark, can you please give your source in these articles? It would help readers know whether the information applies to them. Your opening statement may be correct according to AP style, but it’s not correct according to the Chicago Manual of Style. Quotations consisting of complete sentences are NOT always capitalized.
    Per CMOS (13.14), “When a quotation introduced midsentence forms a syntactical part of the sentence, it begins with a lowercase letter even if the original begins with a capital.”

    In #1, the maxim should begin with a capital but, because it’s not direct discourse, no comma is used before the quotation:
    The pendant around his neck reads “All things are possible.”

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