Communication Skills

JS Tip 192: Three Ways to Introduce a Quotation

Last week, we talked about ending a quotation; this week, we’ll talk about introducing a quotation. (Wait a minute. Isn’t this backwards?)

Shari Halagan, of the National Bank of Arizona, asked about the need for a comma or other introductory punctuation mark for a quotation. (This was a good question; we were inconsistent in last week’s tip.)

Use a comma after an introductory word like said, replied, or asked:   

She said, “Materials have different loading potentials.”

Use a colon when the introduction is a complete sentence and the quotation is two or more sentences long.

She described the problem this way: “Materials have different loading potentials. Bending combines tensile and compressive forces in a single element.”

Use a block quotation—indented without quotation marks—when the quotation is longer than forty words.

She described the problem this way:

Materials have different loading potentials. Bending combines tensile and compressive forces in a single element. Bending puts one face into tension while the other is in compression. At some point between the two faces there must be a point where there is no tension or compression.

The sources vary on this length. The Chicago Manual of Style says eight lines. Words into Type says five lines. The APA (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association) says forty words. Talk to your document people. You may have an in-house standard.

Let us know your questions. We love this stuff.