Larry Trask says:

"[A] quotation is set off by quotation marksĀ and nothing else. A sentence containing a quotation is punctuated exactly like any other sentence apart from the addition of the quotation marks. You should notĀ insert additional punctuation marks into the sentence merely to warn the reader that a quotation is coming up: that's what the quotation marks are for."


Here is the sentence with proper punctuation:

President Nixon declared "I am not a crook."

Adding more dots and squiggles to this perfectly clear sentence would do absolutely nothing to improve it. No punctuation mark should be used if it is not necessary.


Based on Trask's example, could we omit the comma after the dialog tags in the examples below - or should we always include them?

Joe said 'I hate dill pickles.'

Alex asked 'Where did she get that idea?'

Sam replied 'There's no point in going.'

Frank said 'I'm done with Debby. On Monday I'm filing for divorce.'

  • "Do you agree?" would be OT on ELU. – Kris Jan 27 '15 at 11:09
  • There's a fundamental difference between the structure of Trask's example and the OP's examples, in pragmatics especially. – Kris Jan 27 '15 at 11:11
  • For a hint, see the related post on ELL ell.stackexchange.com/a/47997 – Kris Jan 27 '15 at 11:17
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    Could you edit your question to use > marks so that what is quoted from Trask is clearly indicated? – Andrew Leach Jan 27 '15 at 12:18

Does Larry Trask give reasons for his rule? Why should we believe it? Why is it even worth discussing?

In the examples, there is a change in intonation before the quoted material that is similar to the intonational change we use commas or other special punctuation for, elsewhere. Compare the pronunciation of Joe said this and Joe said "this". They sound quite different, right? The "said" in the latter sentence is prolonged while maintaining the pitch. Elsewhere, we'd use a comma for a similar prolongation: Joe fled, probably.

I'm not saying we ought to use any special punctuation before a quote; rather, I'm saying that if we omit it, I'd like to have a reason.

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