A Comma Before a Quote?

Margie Wakeman Wells The Comma, The Quotation Mark 1 Comment

A question from a reporter today is in regard to placing a comma before a quote when the quote surrounds a word that is being defined. So let’s look at the rule for quoting and the rule for the comma:

When a word or words are being defined, they are quoted in reporting. (By the way, in formal English they are italicized.)

…You used the word “augmented.” How would you…
…I am not sure what you mean by “augmented.” Would you…
…You said “augmented.” Did you…
…When you use “augmented,” what do…

In each example here, there is no comma. The grammar involved simply does not call for a comma.

…You used the word “augmented.” How would you…
“Augmented” is an appositive to — that is, it renames — the word word. It is essential to knowing which word we are talking about. Therefore, there is no comma.

…I am not sure what you mean by “augmented.” Would you…
“Augmented” is the object of the preposition. We do not put a comma between a preposition and its object. Therefore, there is no comma.

…You said “augmented.” Did you…
…When you use “augmented,” what do…
“Augmented” is the direct object. Unless the quoted material is discourse — that is, relating a conversation that took place — there is no comma. This is not a conversation. Therefore, there is no comma.

Happy punctuating.

Margie

Comments 1

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I probably would have gotten them right by a 50/50 chance; but, I would not have known the reasons.

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