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Punctuation (Commas and Inverted Commas) 01
She whispered, "I really like Peter". This illustrates the correct use of a comma before inverted commas.

Punctuation (Commas and Inverted Commas) 01

In punctuation, use commas before direct speech introduced with phrases such as "he said".

Punctuating direct speech is a technical skill. If you begin your sentence by introducing the direct speech, you will need a comma first. Here is an example which has been correctly punctuated:

She said, "I am not at all happy about having to climb this staircase in the dark."

The comma separates the introduction from the speech even when using a longer, more complex, phrase, as here:

She said, grumbling under her breath, "I am not at all happy about having to climb this staircase in the dark."

You will notice that the direct speech itself also ends in punctuation. Always place some form of punctuation before the closing speech marks. The examples above end in full stops. If we reverse the sentence, we still need some form of punctuation, as here:

"I am not at all happy about having to climb this staircase in the dark," she said.

Notice that "she" begins with a small letter because the sentence is not yet finished. This is true even if the direct speech is punctuated with a question mark or exclamation mark:

"I am not at all happy about having to climb this staircase in the dark!" she exclaimed loudly.
"Are you happy about climbing this staircase in the dark?" she asked.


So remember: a comma always separates the direct speech from an introductory phrase such as "he said", some form of punctuation is always necessary before the closing punctuation marks and, when continuing a sentence past the direct speech, do not use capital letters for phrases such as "she said", even if you've used a question mark or exclamation mark. Easy, right?

Test yourself with this quiz on punctuating direct speech.

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1.
Select the correctly punctuated sentence.
They shouted Hooray
They shouted "Hooray!"
They shouted hooray!
They shouted, "Hooray!"
They shouted, Hooray,
Use a comma before the opening speech marks
2.
Select the correctly punctuated sentence.
He said I've found a solution to the problem
He said "I've found a solution to the problem,"
He said "I've found a solution to the problem.
He said, "I've found a solution to the problem."
He said, I've found a solution to the problem.
A comma separates "he said" from the content of his speech
3.
Select the correctly punctuated sentence.
She whispered it's time to go
She whispered "It's time to go,"
She whispered "it's time to go,"
She whispered It's time to go!"
She whispered, "It's time to go!"
"It's time to go!" is a complete sentence and therefore begins with a capital letter
4.
Select the correctly punctuated sentence.
He told the class use a comma before direct speech
He told the class "Use a comma before direct speech,"
He told the class, "Use a comma before direct speech."
He told the class, use a comma before direct speech.
He told the class. Use a comma before direct speech.
Remember that the closing punctuation goes before the closing speech marks
5.
Select the correctly punctuated sentence.
The lesson is over he announced
"The lesson is over" he announced,
"The lesson is over" He announced.
"The lesson is over," he announced.
The lesson is over, he announced,
There should always be some form of punctuation before the closing speech marks
6.
Select the correctly punctuated sentence.
It will rain tomorrow explained the weather expert
"It will rain tomorrow explained the weather expert".
"It will rain tomorrow." Explained the weather expert.
"It will rain tomorrow," explained the weather expert.
It will rain tomorrow, explained the weather expert.
When the sentence continues after the closing speech mark, the following word should not be capitalised. Here the sentence continues after the closing speech mark with the words "explained the weather expert" and "explained" should not begin with a capital letter
7.
Select the correctly punctuated sentence.
There is a traffic jam all the way home reported Jan
"There is a traffic jam all the way home," Reported Jan.
"There is a traffic jam all the way home, reported Jan".
"There is a traffic jam all the way home," reported Jan.
There is a traffic jam all the way home reported Jan,
The word "reported" should not be capitalised
8.
Select the correctly punctuated sentence.
I'm so tired Sophie sighed
"I'm so tired Sophie sighed
"I'm so tired" Sophie sighed,
"I'm so tired" Sophie sighed.
"I'm so tired," Sophie sighed.
Put the comma inside the closing speech marks
9.
Select the correctly punctuated sentence.
Come and look at the dolphins cried Jon
"Come and look at the dolphins cried Jon,
"Come and look at the dolphins" cried Jon,
"Come and look at the dolphins" cried Jon.
"Come and look at the dolphins," cried Jon.
This would also be correct: "Come and look at the dolphins!" cried Jon.
10.
Select the correctly punctuated sentence.
This is the last question laughed Arjin.
"This is the last question? laughed Arjin."
"This is the last question" laughed Arjin?
"This is the last question" laughed Arjin.
"This is the last question," laughed Arjin.
Opening quotation mark, speech, punctuation, closing quotation mark

 

Author:  Sue Daish

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