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4.6. The colon

The colon is a stop and ‘a curtain raiser’. It points toward something that follows. It says: “There is something missing in this sentence and here it comes.” It is mainly used for two purposes: to introduce direct quotations and to introduce listings of two or more things.

4.7. Quotation marks

Whenever, in your writing, you want to quote exactly what someone has said or written, you use quotation marks (" "). These quotation marks are put around the exact words of the speaker or writer to show where the quotation begins and ends.

There are a number of points to note about the correct use of quotation marks.

(1) The actual quotation is separated from the author's words (he said, she said, etc.) by a comma.

"I don't feel like eating", said Nick.

But if the author's words precede the quotation we use a comma or a colon to separate them.

He said, "It's up to you now".

At six-fifty-five George said: "He's not coming".

(2) The first word of a quotation is capitalized because it is the beginning of a sentence.

"You know everything", Nick said.

(3) When a quotation ends with a ? or a ! we do not use a comma. These punctuation marks serve instead of commas.

“Did she go all right?” Bill said.

“How strange!” said Macomber.

(4) When a quotation consists of more than one sentence, one set of quotation marks will do, at the beginning and at the end of the conversation.

He smiled, and went on soft-voiced: "Right away I liked him and when I got out I looked him up. He likes to think I'm crazy and I don't mind. I like to be with him and I like seeing the country and I don't have to commit no larceny to do it I like living like a gentleman."

(5) When you are quoting or writing conversation, be sure to start a new paragraph for each speaker.

"When are we going to eat, Burgs?" the prizefighter asked.

"Right away"

"Are you hungry, Nick?"

"Hungry as well."

"Hear that, Bugs?"

"I hear most of what goes on."

(6) Very often, however, the author's words come in the middle of the quotation and they break it. The following simple rules govern the placing of quotation marks in broken quotations:

a) If the first part of the quotation is not a complete sentence, put a comma after the author's words to show that this part is not a complete sentence. Begin the second part of the quotation with a small letter to show that it is part of the same sentence. There are quotation marks around the two parts of the whole quotation.

"You may go if you wish," my uncle said, "but I think it's a risky business."

b) If the part of the quotation that continues is a complete sentence, put the punctuation marks like this:

"Don't bother," Nick said. "I'm going on to the town."

"That's right," Ad said happily. "She never speeds up."

Words or Phrases Quoted. If the quotation is less than a complete sentence the closing quotation marks precede the final punctuation mark.

The performance, he complained sharply, had been "little short of a fiasco".

He described the performance as a "humiliating, total flop".

Quotation Marks within Quotation Marks. If you have to place one quotation within another quotation, change from double to single quotation marks, or the other way round, as you place the quotations. Be sure you have written both quotation marks of each pair - and that single quotation mark is paired with single quotation mark and double with double.

“She shouted, 'I will never do that!'” my brother said.

“Have you read ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’?”

“I have just read ‘Can You Read Faster?’”

“Have you read ‘Can You Read Faster?’”

“Is there a Russian proverb like ‘Look before you leap’?” he asked.

‘The librarian definitely said, “I've got your brother's copy of 'Hard Times'”’, my sister told me.