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Wundergrammar: Colon-Break Quotes
Tuesday, August 7, 2007   9:27 PM

Less exciting than my discovery of semicolon quotes, but still notable: this writer introduces all direct quotations as if they were block quotations. That is to say, with a colon, no quotation marks, and a break in the text:

Cordilia said:
Thank you and good luck.

When I got to her station she said:
How can I help you?

Though I suppose that even for block quotes these are unusual, since most people would probably add a blank line before the quote. And indent!

In any case, it's pretty safe to say that we're all a bit confused about quotations. For my part, last summer I went through a phase where I was refused to add in a comma when using said to introduce a quotation — now I have to coach writers who ignore this convention that it's our company style.

While most college-educated people (or at least, most English majors) probably agree on the basic mechanics of quotations, there are still sticking points out there — dark, warm places where prescriptivism can fester.

For example, from what I've seen, I'm at odds with much of America in my belief that the verb state can introduce only indirect quotations, not direct quotations. It also looks very weird when people introduce a paraphrase with stated instead of stated that. Such are my correctness conditions.

More than once, I've edited writers who broke both these 'rules' and used stated rather than said. Exclusively.

(It would be interesting to know what speaking verbs can introduce a paraphrase without that for most people. I'd guess that more than 90% of English speakers, whatever their preference, would have no problem with He said the dog was brown.)

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