Via Google search and consulting the Chicago Manual of Style, I have discovered that a colon not a period is supposed to precede a quotation when that quotation is a complete sentence or an independent clause. (A comma is used for a quotation that is not an independent clause or complete sentence.) Responses to my question have suggested there is no such rule. Does anyone see a way to reconcile these views? Are there circumstances when it is acceptable to put a period at the end of the sentence before the quotation or not? I ask because sometimes the quotation is more or less unrelated to the preceding sentence, and the result can look odd. Any guidance would be appreciated.

Example: Charles and Ben love to play basketball _ [period or colon?] "Suit up everybody; we've got a big game tomorrow!" yelled the coach.

  • I wonder where you were told such a thing.
    – tchrist
    Oct 28, 2022 at 2:47
  • Chicago Manual of Style Oct 28, 2022 at 5:32
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    CMS applies to introducing quotations in academic writing, when they are normally preceded by an introductory phrase ("Nietzsche states...", "In Smith's view...", etc). It's not a style guide for writing fiction. Have you been told by some strange people to use Chicago for fiction, or are you just trying to apply it for your own amusement?
    – Stuart F
    Oct 28, 2022 at 12:39
  • This rule can only apply to initial punctuation, between a dialogue tag (Jim said / The sign read / Euclid concludes etc) and an actual quote, no matter what the genre. And it's a suggestion; the choice of comma, colon or zero stop (ie no comma etc) is just that, a choice. Certainly, in formal writing, a colon may be more appropriate (Euclid concludes: ....) Oct 28, 2022 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


There is no rule about a colon preceding a quote that is a complete sentence. Even if there was it would not apply if the preceding clause is a complete sentence, which is the case in your example. A period is correct in your example.

All of the following are correct:

Charles and Ben love to play basketball. "Suit up everybody; we've got a big game tomorrow!" yelled the coach.

  • Hi DJ. Thank you for your comment, but do you have a source for this? The Chicago Manual of Style says a complete sentence as well as an independent clause preceding a quotation should end in a colon, not a period. Apparently, in creative writing there is flexibility, but this colon requirement appears in the other style guides as well. Oct 28, 2022 at 5:31
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    Surely this only makes sense when the previous sentence introduces the quotation? Anyway, your "Suit up, everybody" looks to me like a piece of dialogue rather than the words of a real person. Oct 28, 2022 at 7:47
  • I sympathize with these observations. I don't like the colon idea either. However, the Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition) Chapter 13.16 says to use a colon. Kate, I do think you are on to something. Maybe the distinction is whether or not the preceding sentence introduces the quotation rather than simply precedes it. Googling the question yields support for using a colon. It's all very confusing to me. Oct 28, 2022 at 12:13
  • Fiction has different customs in punctuation from the academic writing the CMS is designed for. You're not expected to cite and reference every quotation in fiction either, you are allowed to use contractions and swearwords and many other constructions banned by Chicago, and there are many other differences in practice. Likewise, you wouldn't follow Chicago in writing a screenplay, computer program, birthday card, text message, or graffiti.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 28, 2022 at 12:45
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    @Falls Church 'Chicago Manual of Style says a complete sentence as well as an independent clause preceding a quotation should end in a colon' must mean << This is what the sign said: 'Keep off the Grass'. >> A prior lead-in sentence (a dialogue tag ... including quotative verb). NOT << The college dons are very protective of their ancient privileges. 'Keep off the Grass!' read a large sign on the lawn. >> Oct 28, 2022 at 15:21

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