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How to Cope with Writing Difficulties: Where to place Quotation Marks; Placing Words for Intended Meaning; Verb Endings
Here we go Again!
Yes, I’m still here. You don’t get away that easily. Once more, this is not me on my hobbyhorse. I’m answering a plea to explain certain issues when writing. In the comments of my hub about spelling confusions, Faith Reaper asked me about where to put quotation marks, inside or outside the punctuation. The other was the correct placement of words in sentences to convey the intended meaning.
Faith writes “.... the punctuation is either outside the quotations and then some use the final punctuation inside the quotations. I know that both are correct depending on your sentence structure. To me, if the entire sentence is a quote, then the punctuation should be inside the quotations, but if only part of the sentence is in a quote and the quote is at the end of the sentence, then the punctuation should be outside the last quote in the sentence. Again, I am confused as I see published authors using it differently.”
Have you noticed where I have put the quotation marks when quoting Faith’s words? This was her entire paragraph. She was correct in that I have quoted everything she wrote in that paragraph therefore the quotation marks go outside the whole lot, including punctuation. Well done Faith!
And I Quote.....
Quotation Marks Outside Punctuation
Her key words are “..both are correct depending on your sentence structure.” She is indeed correct.
Let’s look at some examples. Consider the following:
The latest thinking on hubpages writers, according to an eminent psychologist, is that “These writers are a brilliant bunch of well-adjusted, gifted people who always produce amazing stories and essays.”
The words in quotes are exactly what the psychologist said, therefore everything he said, including the punctuation that goes with it, is put within quotation marks.
Quotation Marks Inside Punctution
So when do we put quotation marks before the punctuation? Have a look at the following (and it must be remembered that I'm using accepted British grammar here - I know it's sometimes different in American English).
1. Why is it that some people say, “The end of the world is nigh”?
I’m quoting what people say but within the context of my own sentence, in this case a question. What they say is not a question therefore the question mark goes after the quote because it’s my question, not theirs.
“Who is this person?” she said. “He’s my brother”, he replied. I’m quoting a direct conversation so what is said goes into quotes. The person’s question goes before the quotation marks but the comma after the answer is part of my reporting, so goes after.
Kim said she was all for “playing the part”. You’re taking a few words of what someone has said as part of your sentence.
Simply put, quotes
go after exact sentences that have been said,
go before your own punctuation (i.e. not part of someone else’s phrase or sentence).
Reported Speech - no Quotation Marks!
Reported speech is another matter. It means you are simply reporting the gist of what someone said, for example
The vicar said he was going to flavour the font water with gin.
What the vicar actually said was, “I’m going to flavour the font water with gin.” You are reporting it as something he said (in the past) so the tense of the verb ‘to be’ has to go into the past too. There are no quotation marks here because you’re reporting the fact that he said something rather than his exact words.
I hope that’s clear but if you need further clarification don’t be afraid to ask. The fault will be with the teacher, not the pupil.
The placement of words in sentences is not so difficult as long as you look carefully at the meaning you wish to convey to convey.
I’m going to quote Faith again and I’m sure she won’t mind because she’s already corrected herself on this one. She wrote:
“I am always surprised when I see those, especially in the education field, using these examples here you have indicated incorrectly.”
The adverb ‘incorrectly’ has been placed after the verb ‘indicated’, implying that I was the one who indicated something incorrectly. (As if! .... well..actually it has been known.)
What was meant, in fact, was that people in the field of education used the examples incorrectly. The correct wording would be:
‘....those, especially in the field of education, incorrectly using these examples you have indicated here.’
He couldn’t drive the ghost train well. (he couldn’t drive it with skill)
Well, he couldn’t drive the ghost train! (amazement that he couldn’t drive it)
Placing of Punctuation
Punctuation also makes a difference to meaning (such as the exclamation mark above).
Let’s look at the classic example which never fails to make me giggle.
Version 1: "I’m looking forward to eating Grandma."
Version 2: "I’m looking forward to eating, Grandma."
Being a grandma, I’m slightly worried by the first version!
Try a variety of punctuation with some of your sentences and see how these changes work for you. In other words, make sure you've chosen the correct placement of commas, question marks and so on.
Verb - Third Person
No, I'm not introducing you to someone else.
Another grammar issue mentioned by Faith and also by Jo (tobusiness) http://tobusiness.hubpages.com/ was the verb ending of the third person singular and plural.
At the risk of teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, we’ll clarify what third person singular and plural mean.
3rd person singular (3ps): he, she, it (a person or a thing)
3rd person plural: (3pp) they (persons or things)
Take the verb ‘to want’, where the
3ps is ‘he/she/it wants’ (with ‘s’) and the
3pp is ‘they want’ (no ‘s’)
The problem usually arises when there is a substitute word for the singular he/she/it, such as ‘anyone’ or ‘anything’ or ‘none’. Anyone is a ‘singular’ word, as is ‘anything’. ‘None’ is an old contraction that has lost its apostrophe; the contraction was from the words ‘not one’, therefore also singular. So you might have a sentence like:
“If any (‘one’ is understood) of you wants clarification on any point of spelling or grammar, please ask.”
- the key is the word ‘one’, any one of you, not the word ‘you’.
You have to ask yourself how many people you’re talking about to start with, the subject of the sentence. Ask yourself if you could substitute ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘it wants’.
Another version of my sentence could be:
“If you want me to clarify anything....” In this case the verb ‘want’ goes with the word ‘you’ which in this example is plural, although it would be the same for the singular ‘you’.
Similarly, ‘Any one of those cars is able to do 200 mph.’
The verb goes with ‘any one’ not with ‘cars’. The simpler sentence about the cars is:
‘The cars are able to do 200 mph.’ Of course, you know that.
Use it or Lose it!
So, there you are, Faith and Jo. Thank you so much for the questions. I hope this alleviates the problems for you and for anyone else who might find this useful.
You’ll find another hub about the issue of doubling consonants (or not) in spelling. Again, not my idea so don’t shout at me for banging on about grammar and spelling! I was asked, ok?
Have fun with your writing and just make sure you proof-read at least once. If you’re unsure about any of it, look it up! There are plenty of sources to help you; good reference books, dictionaries and even hubs. Play with words and see where it takes you; that’s the only way you’re going to learn how to use them, how to practise your spelling and how to use grammar.
Verbs, Endings, Nouns, Adjectives.....
Is it necessary for the ordinary writer to worry about terminology?
© 2014 Ann Carr