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When the phrase “along the lines of” introduces an indirect quote, what punctuation, if any, is used?

This is the original sentence that brought up the issue:

I heard replies along the lines of “must be nice to have the time for a vacation.”

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There is no grammatical issue here. Punctuation is not present in language, only in writing, and has nothing to do with grammar. So, this question is a little off-topic. –  user19148 Jul 31 '12 at 23:06
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@Carlo_R: How is a question about punctuation off-topic, especially if it's tagged as a "punctuation" question? This site is not just about grammar - you may wish to take another look at the FAQ before berating a new user. –  Amos M. Carpenter Aug 1 '12 at 1:21
    
Sorry @aaamos, English grammar does not include punctuation. English punctuation is not standard; it has nothing to do with English grammar; and there are no grammatical rules that govern it. There is no punctuation in language, only in orthography. –  user19148 Aug 1 '12 at 3:05
    
@Carlo_R: Please re-read my first comment. It'll come to you ;-) –  Amos M. Carpenter Aug 1 '12 at 3:48
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@Carlo_R.: you're right, grammar does not include punctuation, but punctuation questions are certainly on-topic at ELU. –  Mitch Aug 1 '12 at 16:23

2 Answers 2

There’s no reason to use any further punctuation than quotation marks, if those.

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+1 Agreed. You could also have added why, though. –  Kris Aug 1 '12 at 13:32

I'd argue that the division of reproductions of speech or text into 'direct speech' and 'indirect speech' (there are other terms used, of course) is a rather confusing practice. Collins Cobuild Grammar uses the terms 'quote structure' and 'reporting structure' and analyses the two different structures more logically. It states: When you want to say that a person [/text etc] used particular words, you use a quote structure. You can do this even if you do not know, or do not remember, the exact words that were spoken [/written / displayed]. [bolding and inserts mine]

Thus, if I may tweak the example given,

The teachers heard replies along the lines of "Must be nice to have the time for a vacation."

is a quote structure, whether or not the teachers heard the precise words contained within the inverted commas. Compare:

The teachers heard him reply, "Must be nice to have the time for a vacation."

The teachers heard the reply: "Must be nice to have the time for a vacation."

The teachers heard the words: "Must be nice to have the time for a vacation" - or something very similar. [I'm assuming I don't need to double-punctuate with a comma here - it's an unusual construction I've never met - but doubtless some style-guide will disagree, or seem to.]

Report structures (other than questions) almost always have that-clauses (from which the that may be elided) or to-infinitive-clauses. Here, a comparable report structure would run:

The teachers heard people complaining that they didn't have the amount of holidays the teachers did, and so couldn't fit in a vacation.

Modern rules for punctuating quote structures can be found reasonably easily; I've found endorsements for the use of a comma, a colon or no punctuation at all just before the opening inverted commas. The usual positioning of the closing comma or other stop etc tends to be country-specific, but both US and UK grammarians tend to favour a capital letter to start the quote. Of course, one should strive for accuracy with a quote, so arguably

The notice said: 'keep OFF the grass!!!!' might be required.

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This makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for sharing your research. –  Salkin Aug 1 '12 at 0:13
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I'm afraid you have taken in the implication of the quotes in a completely different way (the usual way, that is). The use of quote marks here however, as I see it, does not signify 'quote structure' at all, rather it signifies a setting off of a clause (along the lines of what) as also, dissociation of opinion (according to him, not me). –  Kris Aug 1 '12 at 13:29

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