Sorry, the question was pretty much confusing at best. Rather then editing it I decided to rephrase it from scratch.

There are times when you're not quoting a person (or a book). Let me borrow a sentence given by @Peter_Browning here:

Should I ask my crush out by saying "will you date me?"

Another example would be:

Here we would say: And that's what you're supposed to provide.

Or probably:

You can't go with "I was shared a document."

By the way, do note the quotes are missing here.

So, I'm talking about cases, when you give an example, say what you would say under certain conditions, ask what you should say, what you will say, tell what someone should say. And the question is, "What's the name?" Is it a direct speech? Does it have a name?

Then, shouldn't I use "," or ":" here? Like:

Should I ask my crush out by saying, "will you date me?"

Should I ask my crush out by saying: "will you date me?"

Should I start with a capital?

Should I ask my crush out by saying, "Will you date me?"

Should I ask my crush out by saying: "Will you date me?"

The other part was about question/exclamation marks, but that is not really related and might be too much for one question. Anyway, let me explain myself here.

Basically, it's about when they go inside/outside quotation marks. But the case I'm most interested in is when quote needs question mark, and the sentence itself needs exclamation mark (... "...?"!), or vice versa (... "...!"?) :) Those must be rare, so I'm rather curious.

P.S. And now I don't know which answer to choose... :(

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    The exclamation or question mark belongs inside the quotation marks if the quoted sentence ends with one of them. Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 21:21
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    @BobRodes Sometimes I think calling the usual guidelines "rules" is misleading to learners. The comma alone has spawned dozens if not scores, many in conflict with each other. Then there are the differences among language groups, exemplified by the placement of the period relative to the quotation marks ...er, I mean placement of the full stop relative to the inverted commas. And the semi-colon? The current rule seems to approach "don't". I call them guidelines, myself, or stylistic choices, with the exception of the obvious ones like "end a sentence with a period". (er... with a full stop.) Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 0:47
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    I can certainly put into words the rules governing the use of quotation marks. I'm an editor, after all. But this resource does a better job of it. You may wish to use it to get into the habit of looking up any punctuation rules you may want to find. I use such resources all the time. For example, the rules for hyphenation run to 10 pages, and I certainly don't care to remember all of them. So, when I need to, I look them up.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 1:40
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    @P.E.Dant I suppose that may be so, although I would say that there are still plenty of rules. For example, I would say that the answer to the OP's question about how to combine quote marks and question marks is a rule, while whether to put the quote inside or outside the period is a guideline. Your penultimate sentence follows the Oxford Manual of English Usage guideline, while the AP style guideline would put the period inside the quote mark. (Interestingly, the AP "rule" derives from the days when periods and commas could break off if at the end of a leaden slug.)
    – BobRodes
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 1:52
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    @BobRodes Yep, I followed AP when I began posting here, but after a few mild swats, I adopted the OME. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 2:33

2 Answers 2


I'm not exactly sure what you are asking but there are a few conditions where quotation marks are required. The first, is the most common which is when you are quoting a person or book. You can also use them when you want to isolate a sentence or part of a sentence. Here's an example:

Should I ask my crush out by saying "will you date me?"

Now this can be a little confusing, but luckily there are alternatives. Italics is commonly used to isolate parts like this

Should I ask my crush out by saying **will you date me?**

Another, less formal method invokes the half quotation, or apostrophe '

  • not exactly sure what you are asking Now that I think about it, "I was shared a document" is a quote, here and in my sentence above. I didn't consider it that way when I was asking the question. I had in mind cases, where you don't quote a person or a book. So you guessed correctly. Your sentences are good examples. And here's another one: "Here we would say: And that's what..." So, giving examples, asking if you've got to say something, saying what you would say all needs quotes, I suppose.
    – x-yuri
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 20:26
  • Updated the question. Could you elaborate? Should I start with a capital and use comma/colon only when quoting someone? In the rest of the cases (see the question) I'm to go with what you suggest (non-capital letter/italics/...)? Can you suggest any other cases of isolating part of a sentence, other then asking what you should say? Is there possibly a name for isolated part of a sentence? That's not a direct speech, I suppose.
    – x-yuri
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 21:35

Here are the rules:

1. Be clear.

2. Be consistent.

So long as you follow these rules, you'll be fine. All the available resources discussing "proper" use of quotation marks, other punctuation, etc. are just attempts to get everyone to apply these two rules uniformly. If you can't find anything specific to your case, just pick something clear and stick with it. If you have an editor, they will make sure that whatever method you choose fits within the overall style guidelines for the particular publication. If you don't have an editor, it's pretty much up to you. In a forum such as this one, you'll be sure to receive feedback if something doesn't make sense, and you can adjust accordingly.

In your case, quotation marks are clear, as are italics:

Is anything wrong with "I was shared a document"?

Is anything wrong with I was shared a document?

I checked Chicago (a generally accepted style authority, but keep in mind that all it really is just a guide for editors at the University of Chicago Press) for guidance on your specific case and was unable to find any. So you can probably justify either of the above examples to a pedant. However, if you do choose to follow Chicago style, you'll definitely want the question mark outside the quotation marks per section 6.70:

A question mark should be placed inside quotation marks, parentheses, or brackets only when it is part of (i.e., applies to) the quoted or parenthetical matter.

In response to the edits:

Be clear and consistent. All of your examples are clear, so pick one and stick with it. If you want to follow a particular style, find the relevant style guide and adhere to its instructions. If you don't want to follow an established style or your style guide has no specific instructions, use whatever you want, but be prepared to defend your choices. I like Chicago because of its comprehensiveness; it directly addresses your capitalization, beginning-punctuation, and ending-punctuation questions with a single example (section 6.126):

Who shouted, "Long live the king!"?

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