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Nancy Said: Quotation Marks

Recently, I attempted to explain the uses of quotation marks and italics in relation to titles.  Let’s move on to a little more complex use of quotation marks.


I’ll apologize now to anyone offended by my use of Nancy Pelosi’s famous line about not reading the health care bill before passing it.  It just came to my mind as a quote which most folks remember.


Everyone knows that someone's exact words quoted, written or spoken, are placed inside of quotation marks.  I think we get this; it's the accompanying punctuation marks which trip us up.


If the quotation is placed at the beginning of a sentence and is followed by a phrase, opening quotation marks are placed at the beginning of the sentence and at the end of the quotation with a comma placed before the closing quotation mark.


We have to pass the health care bill so that you can find out what is in it,” Nancy Pelosi said.


If the quotation is placed at the end of a sentence and is preceded by a phrase, a comma followed by a space precedes the opening quotation mark.


Nancy Pelosi said, We have to pass the health care bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

.

If the quoted statement is dialogue, the same rules apply.

 

If a quotation is only a partial quotation woven into a sentence, no punctuation accompanies the quotation marks.


Nancy Pelosi said that we have to pass the bill in order to find out what's in it.


What about end marks and quotation marks?  Well, if it's a period, it always---always---goes inside of closing quotation marks.


Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to pass the health care bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

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If the end mark is a question mark or exclamation point and the quote is a question or exclamation it goes inside the closing quotation mark.


Nancy Pelosi said, “Do you think we read these bills?”

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Nancy Pelosi shouted angrily, “Think again!”

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If the quotation is not a question or exclamation, but the entire sentence is a question or exclamation, the question mark or exclamation point goes outside the closing quotation mark.


Did Nancy Pelosi say, “We have to pass the health care bill so that you can find out what is in it”?

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Dadgumit, folks, Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to pass the health care bill so that you can find out what is in it”!

.

Here's one situation which seems to trip up folks on a regular basis: quotes within quotes.   A quote within a quote requires single quotation marks.  If you have a quote within a quote within a quote, you go back to double quotation marks.  These rules apply to not only quoted statements, but also titles.

Bill said, I can't believe Nancy Pelosi said, We have to pass the health care bill so that you can find out what is in it.’”

.

Nancy Pelosi said, “I haven't read nor will I read Mike Huckabee's poem Fancy Nancy.’”


Here's one that will boggle your little confused minds: if a single quote is continued over more than one paragraph without interruptions, all paragraphs begin with opening quotation marks and only the last paragraph ends with a closing quotation mark.


You've heard about the controversies, the process about the bill…but I don't know if you've heard that it is legislation for the future - not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America. 

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it - away from the fog of the controversy.

You know as well as anyone that our current system is unsustainable. The final health care legislation, which will soon be passed by the Congress, will deliver successful reforms at the local level.

enough