17

How would I punctuate the bold portion?

"Who are you?" she asked.

"Wait," I replied, "did you just ask me Who are you?"

I would use the following:

"Wait," I replied, "did you just ask me, 'Who are you'?"

  • Comma before the quote

  • Quoted with single quotation marks (instead of italics, which I'd consider another option)

  • Closing quotation mark before the question mark

  • Only one question mark (for my question, not the quoted one)

Is this correct?

  • 1
  • 1
    Single quotes inside of double quotes seems obvious to me, but then I'm a programmer. – Ben Brocka Nov 4 '11 at 0:12
  • @FumbleFingers: Slightly different. My question deals with a quote within another quote. – The English Chicken Nov 4 '11 at 0:30
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    I don't see any difference. We can go on nesting quote within quote within quote until the cows come home. You still put the question mark after the innermost question, as I think all highly-rated answers will show both here and on the original duplicate. – FumbleFingers Nov 4 '11 at 2:33
  • Can we link the two? I think the answers here are clearer. – The English Chicken Nov 4 '11 at 13:13
11

Here's the correct version:

"Wait," I replied, "did you just ask me, 'Who are you?' "

Some things to notice:
1. The statement being quoted is a question, so you need the question mark in the embedded quotation marks. You don't need a second question mark. A sentence can have only one end punctuation mark.
2. The comma before the embedded quotation, which follows standard format for introducing a quotation.
3. The space between the single and double quotation marks at the end.

If I were to revise this, I would write this: "Wait," I said. "Did you just ask me who I am?"

14

I'd punctuate it like this:

"Wait," I replied, "did you just ask me: 'Who are you?'"

Or I'd simply use Reported Speech to avoid this mess with punctuation:

"Wait," I replied, "did you just ask me who I am?"

  • What's the difference between what you proposed and "Did you just ask me who I was?" – RiMMER Nov 3 '11 at 15:01
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    We are taught to replace the present tenses with past tenses when the introductory verb is in a past tense. However, since the question is reported only seconds later (at least that's what I understand from the example given), it sounds unnatural to me to use the form "was". I thought about it, but the present tense sounded more vivid. – Irene Nov 3 '11 at 15:10
  • A comma is more common (in AmE) than a colon to introduce a quoted statement. Also, this needs a space between the single and double quotation mark at the end. See my correction below. – David Bowman Nov 3 '11 at 18:17
5

Regarding quotation marks, the standard rule in English is to alternate single and double quotes, beginning with double quotes.

For example:

"He said, 'I have arrived.'"

"Al said, 'Bob told me, "Charlie is here."'"

If a question mark is part of the quote, it goes inside the quotation marks. If it is not part of the quote, it goes outside. If there is a question mark inside the quote and nothing follows it except punctuation, we don't put a period after the quote.

Did Bob really say, "I am here"?

But:

Did Bob ask, "Are you here?"

The only time you'd put punctuation after the quote is if it is not a period, like:

I can't believe that Bob asked, "Are you here?"!

A quote that asks a question that is part of a sentence that asks a question is awkward, but technically should be written:

I asked, "Did Bob really ask, 'Are you here?'?"

4

According to this site, you're mostly correct. The one change would be to put the question mark inside the single quotation mark.

"Wait," I replied, "did you just ask me, 'Who are you?'"

4

There’s no way round it. If you want to stick to those words it has to be:

"Wait," I replied, "did you just ask me, 'Who are you?'?"

So best not to stick to those words.

I've since found the passage I was looking for in Trask's 'Penguin Guide to Punctuation'. He writes, 'if a sentence would logically end in two question marks, only the first is written.' I can see that doing so makes for less confusion.

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