English grammar

Module 12, Punctuation: Quotation Marks, Lesson 2:

Quotation Marks with Dialogue

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English grammar

Declarative Sentences

When capitalizing and punctuating dialogue containing declarative sentences, it is easiest to start by focusing on how you would write the dialogue in sentence form. Then add narrative elements (such as Jaime said or Mandy asked), additional punctuation (where necessary), and quotation marks.

Jailen said, "Scientists hope that someday people will live on Mars."
Adrian answered, "That sounds like science fiction to me."

Notice that the quotation's capitalization stays the same. In this case the end punctuation stays the same as well, but it may change depending on where the narrative element falls in the sentence (keep reading to learn more).

  • Capitalization

    No matter whether the narrative element comes before, in the middle of, or after the quotation, the capitalization of the quotation always stays the same. Do not capitalize the first word in the second half of a split quotation.

    Jailen said, "Scientists hope that someday people will live on Mars."
    "Scientists hope that someday people will live on Mars," said Jailen.
    "Scientists hope," said Jailen, "that someday people will live on Mars."
  • Punctuation: narrative element first

    If the narrative element comes first, it is always followed by a comma. The quotation will end with a period.

    Jailen said, "Scientists hope that someday people will live on Mars."
    Adrian answered, "That sounds like science fiction to me."
  • Punctuation: narrative element last

    If the narrative element comes last, change the period at the end of the quotation to a comma. This is because you can't put a period in the middle of a sentence. If you did, your reader would not understand that the narrative element is connected to the quote. The narrative element will be followed by a period since it falls at the end of the sentence.

    "Scientists hope that someday people will live on Mars," said Jailen.
    "That sounds like science fiction to me," answered Adrian.
  • Punctuation: split quotations (narrative element in the middle)

    If the narrative element comes in the middle of the quotation, add one comma to the end of the first part of the quotation, and another comma after the narrative element. The quotation will end with a period.

    "Scientists hope," said Jailen, "that someday people will live on Mars."
    "That sounds," answered Adrian, "like science fiction to me."
Note:
In American English, commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks, never outside. British English follows different conventions that are not covered in this lesson.

Questions and Exclamations

Fred asked, "What is your name?"
Sam yelled over the roaring crowd, "My name is Sam!"
  • Punctuation: narrative element first or split quotation

    Unlike periods, question marks and exclamation marks never change to commas. That's because we need these marks to indicate that the quotation is interrogative or exclamatory, not declarative. Question marks and exclamation marks go inside the quotation marks when they are part of the original quotation. For split quotations, it's also necessary to add a comma after the first part of the quotation and after the narrative element (just like you would with a declarative quotation).

    Narrative element first:

    Fred asked, "What is your name?"
    Sam yelled over the roaring crowd, "My name is Sam!"
    Split quotation:
    "What," Fred asked, "is your name?"
    "My name," Sam yelled over the roaring crowd, "is Sam!"
  • Punctuation: narrative element last

    If the narrative element comes last, the question mark or exclamation mark at the end of the quotation does not change, and no comma is necessary. Just add a period after the narrative element since it falls at the end of the sentence.

    "What is your name?" Fred asked.
    "My name is Sam!" Sam yelled over the roaring crowd.

Fragments

If you are quoting only part of what someone said, you do not need to add a comma before the quotation, and you do not need to capitalize the first letter of the quotation.

Our teacher told us that Leonardo da Vinci was "one of the greatest minds of all time."

Practice What You've Learned

English grammar
Directions:
Insert quotation marks in each of the following sentences by clicking the spaces before and after the appropriate words.
1.
" Bill " asked, " Are " you " going " to " college " next " year? "
2.
" Hold " everything! " I " shouted. "
3.
" The " test, " Professor " Sorenson " announced, " will " be " next " Friday. "
4.
" I " heard " the " student " yell, " Here! "
5.
" Have " I " made " myself " clear? " his " father " responded. "
6.
" The " student " raised " his " hand " and " calmly " announced, " I " know " the " answer. "
7.
" She " carefully " asked, " Why " didn't " you " apply " for " the " job? "
8.
" The " speaker " looked " up " from " her " notes " and " exclaimed, " Let " there " be " peace! "
9.
" I " shall " return, " the " general " said. "
10.
" Mom! " the " little " boy " shouted, " may " I " go " fishing? "
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