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I'm discussing and comparing two books and I want to know if I'm using quotation marks correctly:

Both books are known for being existential and the reader is bombarded with questions throughout the books. ‘Whose fault is this? Who did this? Why did it happen this way? Did it even happen this way?’

I'm having a lot of doubts over the punctuation in this small piece of text:

  • Should there be a colon after throughout the books?

  • Should there be individual quotation marks for every question, or is this right?

  • If every question must have individual quotation marks, how would you correctly separate the questions? Using dots after the right quotation mark? Using commas?

EDIT: I must write the final version using a pen and paper.

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Punctuation rules are dictated by style manuals. My suggestion is to add the colon you suggest and skip the quotation marks for the questions: Put them all in italics. Separate all the questions by giving them a "?" plus a space: Whose fault is this? Who did this? Why did it happen this way? Did it even happen this way? There are other ways of doing this, of course. This isn't the only way, just my preference as a technical editor. –  user21497 Jan 10 '13 at 14:33
    
@BillFranke My main problem with that approach is that I have to write the text using a pen and paper. –  JohnPhteven Jan 10 '13 at 14:35
    
In that case, you can underline each question and question mark or else put each question in quotation marks, whichever is easier for you. There are no hard and fast rules about what way to do it is best. Whatever works best for you and the reader is best. –  user21497 Jan 10 '13 at 14:38
    
"Both books are known for being existential and the reader is bombarded with questions throughout the books: Whose fault is this, Who did this, Why did it happen this way, Did it even happen this way, ..." -- one way is to use a colon and not use quotes. That reads better. --> –  Kris Jan 10 '13 at 14:41
    
-> The questions themselves are not literally important -- the fact that the author raises the kind of questions is what matters. In fact, the questions may not even be exact copy-paste from the source in the context. –  Kris Jan 10 '13 at 14:44

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I see no absolute need for a colon, and if the questions are separate questions, then putting each in its own quotation marks will make this clear. I suggest, therefore:

Both books are known for being existential, and the reader is bombarded with questions throughout the books. ‘Whose fault is this?’ Who did this?’ ‘Why did it happen this way?’ ‘Did it even happen this way?’

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Yes; and this mimics a bombardment of questions. –  Andrew Leach Jan 10 '13 at 14:58
    
However, the intention here is not so much as to quote the author as to convey the idea of existentialism in the work. –  Kris Jan 10 '13 at 15:11
    
Barrie, see if the edits are not what you meant. –  Noah Jan 10 '13 at 17:50
    
@Noah. Thanks. The first, but not the second. This refers to 'putting each in its own quotation marks'. –  Barrie England Jan 10 '13 at 18:36

I find the sentence structure problematic beyond the questions of punctuation that you pose: it is not completely clear whether you intend the books' existentialism to be demonstrated by the questions, and either way the 'and' is inappropriate or, at best, awkward.

I would dispense with the quotation marks entirely - the questions don't come across as literal quotes - and, as you suggest, use a colon.

Please excuse the near rewrite, but how about:

Both books are known for their existentialism. They bombard the reader with questions: Whose fault is this? Who did this? Why did it happen this way? Did it even happen this way?

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Both the original example, and all of the suggestions you give are each valid.

If using separate quotes, you could just leave that, use commas between the quotes, or place each on a separate line as a list (this latter only really if you used a colon).

It would also be valid to italicise the questions, rather than using quotation marks.

A style guide might restrict your options though.

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