I have to quote what someone said in a text message that says, "What you mean for court purposes" The original text did not have punctuation at the end, even though a question mark should have been there so where would I put the punctuation? The full sentence I am trying to write is:

Then it says, "What you mean for court purposes"

How do I correctly punctuate that while still keeping the original quoted material correct? Thanks in advance.

  • 2
    You keep the original quoted material correct by keeping the original quoted material correct. What you have is exactly right. You're only missing a period at the end.
    – RegDwigнt
    Mar 18, 2015 at 15:25
  • 1
    Anything added to quoted text should be in square brackets: [?] and if the quoted text has an error, it should left as is with [sic] after it: "The dogs has [sic] fleas." P.S. You original quote seems to be missing a word; as is, it's not grammatically a question..
    – TRomano
    Mar 18, 2015 at 15:27
  • Thanks for the fast responses. Would the period that comes at the end go inside the quotation marks even though that was not in the original message? Also, I know it seems like a "do" should be after the word "what" but the original message did not have that. Thanks though!
    – user114191
    Mar 18, 2015 at 15:34
  • In order to answer this properly I think we need to know more of its context. Do you actually know that what you have there represents the question 'What [do] you mean for court purposes?'?
    – WS2
    Mar 18, 2015 at 16:01
  • 1
    @RegDwigнt has the right of it. If it's inside quotation marks, it's exactly the way it was written, with or without punctuation, with or without incorrect grammar (like the incorrect grammar in the example). No changes of any kind (except deletions, which must be signalled by "...") are allowed in direct quotes. If you put a period at the end of the sentence you want to write, put it after the last quotation mark. Mar 18, 2015 at 16:15

1 Answer 1


To quote your example inline, I would do it like this (by adding your own punctuation):

... Then it says, "What you mean for court purposes." ...

You could also use a block quote. This is useful for longish text or if exact punctuation is critical, such as text intended for a computer.

Then it says:

What you mean for court purposes

  • If you use the first one, you would need to put the period in brackets. Then it says, "What you mean for court purposes[.]"
    – Nicole
    Mar 18, 2015 at 15:54
  • @Nicole Really? I've never seen that. Is there a style guide which recommends such a notation?
    – Brandin
    Mar 18, 2015 at 16:01
  • 1
    Technically, you're adding something to the quote if you put the period within the quotation marks. And it's no longer a direct quote if you add something unless it's notated as such. Brackets are pretty common in most technical papers and news articles I've seen. Here's an MLA guide I found: depts.washington.edu/engl/askbetty/changing_quotations.php
    – Nicole
    Mar 18, 2015 at 16:06
  • @Nicole That site looks more like an interpretation of the style guide, not the MLA style guide itself. But I would advise against over-use of brackets in a quote. If you change a word or add a word, definitely you need it. But for quoting one or two words in which the grammatical tense must change, or putting empty brackets to delete one letter of the verb, or to add one punctuation symbol where there is none, it is overkill.
    – Brandin
    Mar 18, 2015 at 16:20
  • There's no reason, though, why you can't put a stop after the quotation marks, to indicate the end of your sentence. Mar 18, 2015 at 16:20

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