1. tonten

    tonten Active Member

    Sep 15, 2009
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    Quoting Dialogue

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by tonten, Jan 11, 2010.

    Quoting Previously Said Dialogue

    I'm not sure how I would punctuate my sentence if I am quoting a previous said dialogue.


    "You will know me by the toes you see."

    Michael thought, What did he mean by “the toes you see”?

    Should there even be quotations around "the toes you see" or should I not have quotations or should I use the singular quotations ' ' ?

    And if we do use quotations, is this an instance where the period or question mark is outside the quotation?

    Thanks =)
  2. thewordsmith

    thewordsmith Contributor Contributor

    Nov 18, 2009
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    State of Confusion
    In the example given, "the toes you see" is not necessarily a quote, although you could certainly write it that way. If you choose to write it as a quote, you would, indeed, use quotation marks around it. Another point is the question mark. You have, in this case, written it correctly, with the question mark outside the quotes. The rule of thumb on such punctuation is to keep the punctuation with its source. In other words, if you are quoting a question, the question mark would be placed within the quotations:

    "He asked me, 'How are you feeling?' That's all."
    (Note the change in quotation mark structure. A quote within a quote loses a tick - from " to '. If you should (God forbid) have a quote within a quote within a quote, it would revert to the " form. But then you could end up with a sentence closing looking like "'". Definitely not good form for fiction.)
    If, the question is part of the main sentence and about the quotation, it should be written, as you have done, keeping the question mark outside the quote. However, if there is no 'unusual' punctuation within a quote (? - !) the period would remain outside the quotations marks and with the main statement of the sentence.
    "He just said, 'Don't bother'."

    Another, unasked for, comment. You have capitalized a word within a sentence but not part of the quote. This may have been incidental and accidental. If not, you should note that a capital is okay when starting a quote (if it is the beginning of a sentence) but not when changing thought processes within the body of the sentence. This is kind of awkward structure and I can see why you would want to cap the 'W' in 'What'. An easier, and generally better solution would be to simply drop the "Michael thought" and start the sentence with, "What did he mean ...?" Placing the sentence in italics is the usual way of connoting a thought and not spoken words.

    Having said all that, I will, once again, fade into the shadows and let wiser heads prevail.
  3. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    change 'thought' to 'wondered' and you won't have such a mess...

    Michael wondered what he meant by “the toes you see.”

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