questions: punctuation and capitalization
- Direct questions within sentences
Do not use quotation marks with a direct question included within a sentence. Precede the question with a comma, and if the question is relatively long or has internal punctuation, begin the question with a capital letter. An indirect question takes no comma or special punctuation. Examples:
- Suddenly he asked himself, where am I headed?
- Teachers had to confront the issue, Should we dedicate time to better prepare students for assessments, or are we just teaching to the test?
- What to do next is the question.
- In dialogue
Reserve quotation marks to indicate that the question is actual dialogue, (i.e., that it is literally spoken aloud, and the speaker can reasonably expect an answer). Note that the second example could be rendered this way — Suddenly he asked himself, "Where am I headed?" — if the author wished to emphasize that the words were not rhetorical, but were actually spoken aloud.
- With other punctuation (APA 6th, 4.07):
- Always place periods and commas inside quotation marks (i.e., before closing quote).
- Always place colons and semicolons outside quotation marks (i.e., after closing quote).
- Question marks and exclamation marks go inside the quotation marks if they are part of the material being quoted ("You said WHAT!?"; "Why do good people suffer?"). They go outside the quotes if they are not part of the material being quoted (Who said, "Fourscore and seven years ago..."? She even claimed to know the words to "Louie, Louie"!).
- And titles
- Titles of short works (articles, essays, short poems, songs, and stories) appear in roman type (not italic or underlined) inside quotation marks. Titles of long works (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.) appear in italics.
- Single quotes (APA 6th, 4.08):
- Use single quotes to indicate a quote-within-a-quote.
- Curly quotes and straight quotes
- "Curly quotes" like these " / " are the true quotation marks in American English and are standard in most type fonts. If they are available in the font you're using, these are the ones you should use.
- Typewriters and certain type fonts do not have curly quotes, but only straight quotes. On webpages, codes for curly quotes are available, but many older browsers do not support them. As a result, the editor sometimes must decide whether use of curly quotes is justified in a particular project.
- A straight double quote is commonly used as a symbol for inches, and a straight single quote (sometimes called a prime) is often used as a symbol for feet: My height is 5'11".
- Words used in a special sense
- Slang, jargon, invented words, or other words used with deliberate irony may appear in quotes the first time they appear, but not thereafter. The new generation of "smart" weapons will make civilian casualties a thing of the past. In their place we will hear only of "collateral damage."
- Do not use quotation marks to indicate words used as words. Instead, use italics.
"Before attending kindergarten, many children can recognize words like cat and dog."
- Do not use quotation marks as an excuse for poor writing. Cliches, vague expressions, inexact phrasing, and the like, should be avoided, not displayed within quotation marks.
Example: I hate to "beat a dead horse," as they say, but I am kind of "fed-up" with writers who try to appear "cool" by using all sorts of "hip" expressions in their work. To me, that kind of thing is a "drag," and I'm really "turned off" whenever I see it.