Grammar Tips: Quotation Marks and Punctuation


There are many common grammatical mistakes that writers make when submitting manuscripts. Learn how to prevent them with these tips. This blog post focuses on punctuation and quotation marks.

A few months ago I presented at the Willamette Writers in Eugene, Oregon and then at Rose City Romance Writer’s Portland chapter of RWA on grammar. Punctuation and quotation marks was one of the topics we covered. When I am copy editing, there are common mistakes I find among writers again and again. If you already know these rules and use them in your own writing correctly, this is an area where you have a strength. If you aren’t aware of a rule, need to look at the examples to answer correctly, or typically use a manual to refresh your memory, this is an area you might want to practice in order to improve.

*Be aware, there are exceptions to every rule below.

Incorrect punctuation and incorrectly placed punctuation with quotation marks

Good example: “He is just my type: tall, dark and not a vampire,” said Jordan. “That would be better than my last boy toy.”

Notice how “He” is capitalized and the next full sentence in the quotation marks are. Said is not. Punctuation goes inside the quotation marks, NOT outside.


Correct the following:

“He went to see his mistress”, the prince said.

“He is a rake if I ever saw one?” she replied

“Where the hell did that quotation mark go?

“It’s even more annoying when the quotes do this. “


Another common mistake related to quotation marks is not capitalizing a sentence outside of quotes that is a dialogue tag–or capitalizing what should be lowercase

Good Example:

“Mr. Darcy, Vampire would be my favorite book if it had zombies in it too,” said Elizabeth.


Correct the following:

“I need a stiff drink,” She said.

“Shouldn’t you lay off the rum for a while.” he eyed the bottle of amber liquid on the counter. “It’s not like you’re a pirate.”

She swaggered like Jack Sparrow to the other side of the room, “I could be, but,” she belched loudly. “You would need to get me a ship first.”