Archive for March, 2007|Monthly archive page

Quotes and quotation marks

Quotations and quotations marks.

Distinguish between indirect and direct quotations

She asked her husband “if he suffered from extravagant expectations and did he wish he had married someone else?”

Two solutions:

She asked her husband if he suffered from extravagant expectations and did
he wish he had married someone else.


“Do you suffer from extravagant expectations?” she asked her husband. “Do
you wish you had married someone else?”

In the next example, the writer shifts from an indirect to direct quotation.

He told me he got the delirium tremens and you don’t know what it’s like to be locked up in detox.

After telling me about the delirium tremens, he said, “You don’t know what
it’s like to be locked up in detox.”

In the second example, we shift from indirect to direct quotation, and we insert question marks.


He asked, “Did I need some water?”

Stepfather grabbed me by pyjamas and screamed, Are you God?

Using Commas with Quotation Marks.

The following examples illustrate four ways to use commas with quotes.

“I suspect he ain’t ever been Baptized,” Mrs. Connin said, raising her eyebrows at the preacher.
—Flannery O’Conner

In the above example, “I suspect he ain’t ever been baptized” is the quote. “Mrs. Connin said” is the tag—the part of the quote that identifies the speaker. Always insert a comma after a quote if the tag follows, even if the quote is a complete sentence. And be sure to place the comma inside the quotation marks.

Sitting up in her satin-sheeted bed, Mrs. Miller lit a Camel and said, “Chester, your timing is atrocious.”

In the above example, the tag precedes the quote. Therefore, the comma is placed after the tag. Note that the quote now ends with a period. Also note that the period, like the comma above, goes inside of the quotation marks.

“Come on now, let’s begin to have us a good time,” he said coaxingly. “We ain’t got to know one another good yet.”—Flannery O’Conner

In the above example, the tag interrupts the quote. Because the quote is made up of two different sentences, the first sentence, which is followed by the tag, ends with a comma. The tag ends with a period. The second quote, a complete sentence not followed by a tag, ends with a period.

“I hope you don’t think,” he said in a lofty indignant tone, “that I believe in that crap! I may sell Bibles but I know which end is up and I wasn’t born yesterday and I know where I’m going!”—Flannery O’Conner

In this final example, the tag interrupts a quote that is a single sentence. Therefore, commas are inserted before and after the tag.

Remember, commas, periods, and question marks, if they are part of the quotations, go inside the quotation marks.

Integrating quotes into your sentences.

Instead of citing long, dull quotes, it is usually better to integrate quotes into your own words.

When Brently fell in love with Tina, his first cousin, he was so mortified he wrote me a long letter:

Dearest Biff,

It is my sad duty to report that one of Cupid’s fickle arrows has again pierced my wounded heart, causing me to fall headlong in love with Tina, my first cousin. During Daddy’s 75th birthday celebration, while family and friends gorged themselves on brandy-laced coffee, chocolate truffles, and Krispy Kreme donuts, Tina and I made out in the woodshed, pledging ever-lasting love to each other. Oh, Biff, whatever shall I do?

Sincerely, your good friend,

Brently Major Truscott III

Instead, try this:

When Brently fell in love with Tina, his first cousin, he was so mortified he wrote me a long letter, stating that during his father’s birthday celebration, he and Tina “made out” in the woodshed, and pledged “ever-lasting love to each other.”

Make sure, however, that the integrated quote blends grammatically with the rest of the sentence.

Original quote:

“I would trade my boyfriend for a Fendi bag and a pair of Big Bertha pantaloons,” she claimed.


She said she “trade my boyfriend for a Fendi bag and a pair of Big Bertha pantaloons.”


Quoting Long Prose Passages.
When quoting long prose passages (three lines or more), double indent and do not use quotation marks.

Baxter was nonplussed by Charity’s attraction to younger, more virile men:

How much more can you torture me, Charity? Each night before going out, you dress in that fur-trimmed nylon jacket, lace-trimmed shorts, and fox-fur-trimmed suede boots, hoping I won’t notice. But I do, Charity, I do. When you dress like that, my heart hollers in pain, my skin swells until I feel like the Michelin tire man, my brain gets filled with the mocking laughter of other men who know what you’ve been up to. Oh god, it is too too much to bear.


Verb Tenses


Simple present:

I hate me We hate me

You hate me. You hate me

It hates me They hate me

Simple present with irregular verb.

I do me We do me

You do me You do me

He does me They do me

Simple past:

I despised your socks

We despised their kids

You despised my scrambled eggs

You despised his last girlfriend

She despised our relationship

They despised Halo II

Past Perfect

By the time I arrived home, I had driven to The Bronx and back.
By the time you woke, you had realized the relationship was a sham.
By the time the eggs were cooked, her grandfather had died.
By the time we fell in love with her, she had fallen in love with Brian.
By the time you left the movie, the meteor had slammed into the Empire State Building.
By the time they finished college, the economy had collapsed.


1. Her lipstick discombobulate his brain.

2. Last week, we visit a nice cave, find a nice club, and kidnap a nice wife.

3. By the time we arrived at 23rd Street, we have been on the subway for 23 hours.


Write about fiction and fictional events in the present tense:

In love with the pyrokinetic, Liz Sherman, Hellboy covertly follows her and FBI agent John Myers.

In Grand Theft Auto IV, Niko Bellic comes to New York City, searching for the American Dream, but quickly becomes enmeshed in a seedy mix of dames, drugs, and deli food.

It is my sad duty to report that in the final volume, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry Potter does not die.  Instead, he defeats Voldemort and—this is a wild guess—gets his first kiss from Hermione.


hellboy and Liz



1. Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), sank into the icy waters of the North Atlantic as Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet), debated whether, upon reaching New York, she would buy a Whopper or a Big Mac.


2. At the Battle of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington, allied with the Prussian army under the command of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, defeats Napoleon Bonaparte, who makes a number of tactical errors.


Pronoun Reference Problems

Pronoun references must be clear. Each pronoun must have a clear antecedent. The antecdent is the noun to which the pronoun refers. When it is not clear who or what or where the antecedent is, the reader starts thinking about lunch. In the following sentence, it is unclear whether the pronoun he refers to Kane or to Abel.

After Kane slew Abel, he just lay there, not moving.

One possible revision:

Kane murdered Abel, then, realizing he had killed his own brother, collapsed on the grass, crying.

In the above example, Kane apparently lays on the ground after murdering his brother.
Another revision:

Kane killed Abel, then lay down beside his dead brother and didn’t move.

Both revisions eliminate the pronoun, making it clear that we are talking about Kane.


Before Julie hid the bomb’s detonator in the suitcase, she discreetly caressed its rubber buttons.


Julie discreetly caressed the bomb detonator’s rubber buttons before hiding it in the suitcase.

In the above sentence, we can easily tell that the pronouns she and its refer to Julie and her detonator.

Remote reference. The pronoun occurs way too long after the antecedent, confusing the reader.

Again, after midnight, my mother stomped into my room and began to scream at me. Instead of listening, I watched the wonderful witch’s white lips berate me for not taking my anti-depressants, for not doing my French homework, for not reconciling with Brad, for not wearing the Ann Klein sweater she’d picked out, for not paying as much rent as my sister paid. I hated her.

The pronoun her refers to “my mother.” which occurs several sentences before.

Below are four common ways that pronouns cause confusion.

Avoid broad reference of this, that, which, and it.
Do not use a pronoun to refer to an implied antecedent
Avoid the indefinite use of they, it, and you.
To refer to persons, use who, whom, or whose, not which or that.

Excercises: Fix the following sentences so their pronouns agree with the antecedents.

1. Andre the Giant began to see what I saw and realized that he not only could finally overcome my physicality and artiness and speed in the ring, as well as steal my wife, but that he could do it by taking more pastry cooking classes.

2. Her main course was a chewy disappointment while her dessert was a torrid swath of licorice and confectioners sugar. They should acknowledge that the meal was out of control.

3. They insist that a good romp in the hay adds thrill juice to even the driest marriage.

4. She had adorned her skin with tattoos of human cannonballs and trashy portraits of Harley choppers. This led her students to believe she was a biker chick. In fact, she adored Martha Stewart.