I am BACK!!
I hope your holidays were glorious. Mine were lovely even though I was really down and out sick with a throat “thing.” I think that, after almost three weeks, I am finally getting better. Can you say “froggy”?
The question of whether to put a comma before quotes when quoting from a document came up on Facebook. This is fairly “long” for our general purposes; however, I feel that we have to make this explanation.
When a conversation has taken place and that conversation is being relayed — called “discourse” — quote are appropriate if the words being used are those that would be used when talking directly to someone. This is where I would use the expression “when the person is acting as if these were the words he would use face to face.”
[I am not sure how the court reporting field got hung up on “proving” that this is what he really said. If that were the criterion, there would never be quotes.]
These words are separated from the “lead-in words” — “he said,” “I responded,” “she replied” — from the quoted material with punctuation, usually a comma.
…He said, “What do you think you are doing?”
…She said, “I am throwing this out.”
…He said, “You are what?”
…She said, “Throwing this out.”
This is the rule you all know and probably learned in school.
But when a document is being read into the record, there is no “discourse.” This is not a conversation that has taken place that is being relayed..
So the rule that comes into play here is the rule about “words used as words.” When words are being highlighted or emphasized or defined, they are quoted.
…What do you mean by “in the vicinity?”
…When you say “confidently,” exactly how was he acting?
These words do not take a comma before the quotes unless it is appropriate for the sentence in general, that is, unless the grammar calls for it. Rarely do these types of quotes need commas in front of them.
…The document says “It was just after midnight that she was admitted.”
…It states “…on the left.”
This is where quoting from a document falls. The words from the document are being “highlighted” and need to be quoted. But there is no comma in front of them to separate them from “it says” or “it states.” It is not discourse. It is not a conversation that is being relayed. It is just words that are being highlighted.