Write in Style: A Guide to Good English

By Richard Palmer | Go to book overview

22

PUNCTUATION IN SPEECH AND QUOTATION

There is an extensive guide to most punctuation devices and skills in Part Two [pp. 28-49], but nothing on how to punctuate direct speech or its 'cousin', quotation. I have postponed the study of these important skills for one simple reason: they are extremely tricky, even for fully competent writers. Contrary to many students' beliefs and practice, punctuating dialogue or quotation is not just a matter of providing inverted commas at appropriate places: all the other 'normal' punctuation skills remain in play as well. This means that at any one time there is a great deal to remember, a great deal to get right; and if those 'normal' skills are not fully assured, any attempt to deal with more sophisticated tasks is very likely to dissolve into chaos.

That's the bad, or forbidding, news; the good news is that

Anyone who can punctuate speech and quotation correctly will invariably be entirely competent in all other aspects of punctuation.

In other words, if you can master this section, any remaining worries you may have about punctuation should come to an end.

Note: this section deals only with the mechanics of punctuation when writing speech or quoting. If you are uncertain about the use of quotation in academic essays, reports and articles, please consult pages 178 ff, where you will find advice on lay-out, when to quote and why, and how to ensure that all your quotations work to your maximum advantage.


The rudiments of punctuating speech

1. Practically everyone knows that punctuating speech requires the use of inverted commas. You can use either single or double inverted commas:

-315-

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Write in Style: A Guide to Good English
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • From the Reviews: vi
  • Contents vii
  • List of Exercises xi
  • Acknowledgements xiv
  • Preface xv
  • Part One - Engage Brain and Ear Before Writing 1
  • 1 - Disasters 3
  • 2 - Triumphs 9
  • Part Two - Foundations 13
  • 3 - Introduction 15
  • 4 - Bone Structure 16
  • 5 - Joints 28
  • Part Three - Style 65
  • 6 - Introduction: Style Versus Fashion 67
  • 7 - Fight the Flab 70
  • 8 - Voice 109
  • Part Four - Tailor-Made 139
  • 9 - Introduction 141
  • 10 - Letters 142
  • 11 - Essays 161
  • 12 - Articles 189
  • 13 - Reviews 192
  • 14 - Reports 194
  • 15 - Minutes 199
  • 16 - PrÉcis and Summary 203
  • 17 - Reportage 225
  • Part Five - Grammar Primer 229
  • 18 - Grammar Primer 231
  • 19 - Inflections 274
  • 20 - Syntax 286
  • 21 - Parts of Speech (Advanced) 294
  • 22 - Punctuation in Speech and Quotation 315
  • 23 - Spelling and Confusibles 327
  • Appendix: Answers to Exercises 343
  • Further Reading 355
  • Authors, Sources and Named References 359
  • Subject Index 361
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