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7.18 Quotations, etc.

Place a comma after words introducing short direct quotations, declarations and direct questions (a colon is needed to introduce longer sentences):

  • A politician once remarked, "Life is short; live it up."
  • I repeat, No milk today.
  • Ask yourself, Can I afford this?

Note the capital letter and the absence of quotation marks in the last two examples.

If the quotation or question follows a form of the verb to be, is in apposition to a noun, or is worked naturally into the syntax of the sentence, no comma is needed:

  • What he actually said was "Play it, Sam."
  • Did I give a satisfactory answer to the chairperson’s question "Why are there so few women in management?"
  • She asked us to "rephrase the question to make it less offensive."

It is also acceptable to omit the comma before quotations introduced by verbs of saying:

  • He said "Have a nice day," fired a few shots, and ran.

The use of punctuation in quotations is discussed in 8.03 Punctuation and grammar in run-in quotations.