Is it proper to use a comma before a quotation like this:

She continued to say, "no" while they drove away.

I don't think you would generally use a quotation, but this is a report for legal proceedings and, obviously, "no" must be conveyed.

  • 2
    That comma is (in my opinion) an unnecessary speed bump. I'd remove it.
    – user230
    Jan 15 '14 at 13:44
  • I agree. I have management telling me otherwise and I just want to make sure that it is a preference as opposed to a rule.
    – user3943
    Jan 15 '14 at 14:04

We have just had this conversation on EL&U: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/146173/is-there-a-comma-needed-before-quotation

She said, "No." is reporting her speech using a speech tag. She continued to say "no" quotes her speech but without the use of a speech tag. Here, the quotation is part of the overall sentence and does not require a comma. As snailplane said in the comments, the comma impedes the flow of the sentence.

From my EL&U answer

dummies.com says this:

No comma separates the quotation from the rest of the sentence if the quotation doesn’t have a speaker tag.

And I like these examples:

Mr. Johnson, who was working in his field that morning, said, "The alien spaceship appeared right before my own two eyes."


Although Mr. Johnson has seen odd happenings on the farm, he stated that the spaceship "certainly takes the cake" when it comes to unexplainable activity.

Your "she continued to say" is like the second example's "he stated that".

You also say in your question:

I don't think you would generally use a quotation

Do you mean "comma" here rather than "quotation"? Whether or not you would use quotation marks depends in part on whether or not "no" is actually what she said. If the speaker means she voiced disagreement but not necessarily the actual word "no", then I would not use quotation marks. However, I don't think you could prove exactly what the speaker means. As it is implied that she said the actual word "no", I would use quotation marks.

  • I do mean quotation. If I were telling somebody a general response to a yes or no question, it seems there would not be quotations. Such as: 'I asked her if she could hang out later and she said no.' She really said the word "no". Now I think we can agree that it is important that she really said "no" in this instance, but general conversation would make quotations unnecessary.
    – user3943
    Jan 16 '14 at 13:07
  • Indeed, that would be a good example of where the actual response would not be too important: no just indicates a negative response. For legal transcription, of course, quotation marks are an important indicator of whether or not something was exact, actual wording.
    – nxx
    Jan 16 '14 at 13:44

The comma is necessary for proper grammar according to my sixteen years in school. In more casual writing nowadays, I tend to leave off a comma immediately before a simple quote such as "no." But for legal proceedings I say, "You need the comma."

  • 2
    Not exactly, as I explain in my answer!
    – nxx
    Jan 15 '14 at 16:28

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