As in title.

For example,

  1. "Where have you been?" she asked at home.
  2. "We don't know it." he said in that meeting.
  3. The sentence "where are you?" is grammatical.

So, what would be the correct way to punctuate these sentences? Are there any rules for this?

  • 3
    These conventions tend to vary. There are few hard-and-fast rules universally followed in all respects. There are several manuals of style. Here's one: chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html and here is another style.mla.org and here is another for medical and scientific writing: amamanualofstyle.com
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 11:20
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo, Thanks for those information! It would take me some time to digest. At the same time, could you help to punctuate those sample sentences in my answer?
    – dan
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 23:59
  • 1
    Your sample sentences are correctly punctuated. However, the sentence "Where are you?" should capitalize the word Where, since it's the beginning of a sentence. This is my favorite punctuation guide.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 3:45
  • 1
    @BobRodes, For the second one, is it correct to make it like: "We don't know it," he said in that meeting.
    – dan
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 4:05
  • 2
    In that case, you would leave the question mark, since it's a question. Here's an in-depth explanation of how to quote conversations.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 4:44

1 Answer 1


"Where have you been?" she asked at home. (none)

"We don't know it." he said, in that meeting. (comma)

The sentence -"where are you?"- is grammatical. (if direct speech, you have to mention it between dashes or comma, as per usual italian grammar needs).

I hope it works. J

A style guide by "the Economist" mentioned:

"Inverted commas" (quotation marks) Use single ones only for quotations within quotations.

Thus: "When I say 'immediately', I mean some time before April," said the builder.

For the relative placing of quotation marks and punctuation, follow Oxford rules. Thus, if an extract ends with a full stop or question-mark, put the punctuation before the closing inverted commas. His maxim was that "love follows laughter." In this spirit came his opening gambit: "What's the difference between a buffalo and a bison?"

If a complete sentence in quotes comes at the end of a larger sentence, the final stop should be inside the inverted commas. Thus:

The answer was, "You can't wash your hands in a buffalo." She replied, "Your jokes are execrable."

If the quotation does not include any punctuation, the closing inverted commas should precede any punctuation marks that the sentence requires. Thus:

She had already noticed that the "young man" looked about as young as the New Testament is new. Although he had been described as "fawnlike in his energy and playfulness", "a stripling with all the vigour and freshness of youth", and even as "every woman's dream toyboy", he struck his companion-to-be as the kind of old man warned of by her mother as "not safe in taxis". Where, now that she needed him, was "Mr Right"?

When a quotation is broken off and resumed after such words as he said, ask yourself wheter it would naturally have had any punctuation at the point where it is broken off. If the answer is yes, a comma is placed within the quotation marks represent this. Thus:

"If you'll let me see you home," he said, "I think I know where we can find a cab."

The comma after home belongs to the quotation and so comes within the inverted commas, as does the final full stop.

But if the words to be quoted are continuous, without punctuation at the point where they are broken, the comma should be outside the inverted commas. Thus: "My bicycle", she assured him, "awaits me."

Do not use quotation marks unnecessarily: Her admirer described his face as a finely chiselled work of art; she wrote in her diary that it looked more like a collapsed lung.

Note that the Bible contains no quotation marks, with no consequent confusions.

Regarding Dashes You can use dashes in pairs for parenthesis, but not more than one pair per sentence, ideally not more than one pair per paragraph.

"Use a dash to introduce an explanation, amplification, paraphrase, particularisation or correction of what immediately precedes it. Use it to gather up the subject of a long sentence. Use it to introduce a paradoxical or whimsical ending to a sentence. Do not use it as a punctuation maid-of-all-work." (Gowers)

Do not use a parenthetical dash as a catch-all punctuation device when a comma, colon, etc could be used. The much-reviled semi-colon is often worth an airing, too.

  • 1
    You are correct, except the last one: you do not -- and should not -- set off the quote with dashes or comma. Also, the comma is optional in short sentences like this one.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 3:43
  • Ok, I understood even if I thought it has to be "pasted": "no dashes nor comma" in short sentences. Thank you, J
    – Jacques
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 11:18
  • Reading through your answer, I don't necessarily recommend that the OP follow Oxford rules. They are common in the UK, but Americans more often use AP or Chicago styles. Some of the rules you mention are different in those.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 22:04
  • I am sorry if I misunderstood, Bob, I thought it was correct to mention what learnt on a style book -written by the Economist's journalists-. Best practice makes you ('quite') perfect. J
    – Jacques
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 10:50
  • The Economist is a British magazine, and so would use Oxford style. But again, Oxford rules differ from the main American style rules (Chicago and AP) in some respects, and in this respect in particular: "If the quotation does not include any punctuation, the closing inverted commas should precede any punctuation marks that the sentence requires." Chicago and AP rules dictate that periods and commas should always precede the quotation mark (i.e. the inverted commas). If Dan is American, it's probably better that he use one of the American styles.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 19:46

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