Monday Grammar & Teacher Journal

In Grammar on November 16, 2009 at 10:23 pm


Over the next couple of Mondays, I thought we might talk about some specific punctuation rules for research papers. First, let’s talk about how to use punctuation with quotation marks. If you learned British English, you might be a bit confused about how we punctuate quotations in the US. In British English, you have to think about the sentence as a whole, and you use punctuation differently, depending on the quotation’s role in the sentence. In the US, it’s a bit simpler. The punctuation for a quotation goes, 99% of the time, inside the quotation marks, like this:

Dylan Thomas said, “Someone’s boring me. I think it’s me.”

In this example, the period at the end of the quotation goes inside the quotation marks. There’s also a comma after the word “said,” where the quotation is introduced. Here’s an example that’s flipped, with the tag (the part of the sentence that identifies the speaker) at the end:

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal,” Albert Camus said.

Notice that there’s a comma instead of the period at the end of the quotation — and also that it goes inside the quotation marks. Pretty easy, right? Here’s an example with a quotation that’s broken into two parts:

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” George Price once said, “but hasn’t the fine line between sanity and madness gotten finer?”

The first part of the quotation has a comma afterward. Then we have another comma after “said” and finally, the question mark (still inside the quotation marks) to end the sentence. In this instance, the quotation is all in one sentence. What happens, though, if the quotation is broken into two — but it’s also made up of two complete sentences? Take a look:

“Interestingly, according to modern astronomers, space is finite,” Woody Allen said. “This is a very comforting thought– particularly for people who can never remember where they have left things.”

Can you see the difference in how this is punctuated? There’s still the comma at the end of the first quotation, but there’s a period after the word “said.” This is because the sentence is complete at this point, and the following part of the quotation is also a complete sentence, so it can stand on its own.

Next week, we’ll talk about what to do with quotations when you also have APA or MLA citations to add. Happy punctuating!

The flu is making its way around my campus lately. The administration sent a message urging people who are sick to stay home, and Purel bottles have sprung up in the library, the student services office, and at the security desk in the lobby. It seems that students and instructors are at special risk of catching and passing on the flu, as we try hard not to miss class — and as we share papers, pencils, pens, and writing surfaces. So far, I’ve been healthy (knock wood).

I remember one of my first years of teaching. I got a serious case of the flu. I had a fever over 102 F. I couldn’t eat or sleep or think. Still, it was the class before the final exam, and I had promised to prepare students more thoroughly for the exam the following week. I couldn’t abandon the students right before the exam, so I pulled myself off the couch and got to the room in time for the 8am class. I don’t know if I was any help to the students, or if I made any sense in my lecture that day.

Generally, I don’t think attending class with the flu is a good idea — especially for students. If you’re getting a fever, especially this year (with H1N1 worries afoot), it’s a good idea to contact your instructor to let her know you’re sick. Then stay home, eat chicken soup, and watch lots of really bad TV. As long as you don’t call in sick every time a paper is due, most teachers will understand and gladly help you catch up when you’re well again.


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