Welcome to Writing Tip Tuesday, the Quotation Marks edition. This is the seventh in a series of posts pulled from my free guide “On Not Writing Badly.” You can download the whole thing by filling out this form, or, if you’d rather not subscribe to my email list, you can simply check back here over the next several Tuesdays for a regular dose of word nerdery.
Rule 1: Quotation marks are used to denote that something was said.
Example: Drake told the jury that the defendant was “guilty of murder” and should be held accountable.
Rule 2: Punctuation almost always goes inside quotation marks (for American English).
Example: “I’m planning to take some time off,” she said, “once I finish this project.”
Example: He said, “Hang on tight!” Then he hit the gas and the car launched onto the highway.
EXCEPTION: When the quote itself is not the question.
Example: Who said, “It is better to have loved and lost”?
Rule 3: If the words before a quote are any version of “to say,” you need a comma
before the quote.
Example: As Franklin advised, “Plough deep while sluggards sleep.”
Rule 4: Quotation marks should not be used to add emphasis.
Please, please, please don’t use quotation marks for emphasis. If you learn only one thing from me ever, let it be this. Every time I see a sign that says EVERYTHING IN THE STORE IS “50% OFF” I wonder if maybe someone just said it was 50% off, but really it’s not.