Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are important. They let you know someone is speaking, and when you’re telling a story, this can be vital. I’ve seen some ‘experimental’ writing where they left out quotation marks altogether. It was confusing, to say the least.

Punctuation evolved to help writers convey meaning. After all, readers need to know where one thought stops and the next begins. They need to know how the words are being presented. Calmly? Excitedly? Quotation marks are something I find often need editing, so here are a few rules to keep in mind.

Quotation marks are for speech, not thoughts. Thoughts can be expressed in italics if you wish. Punctuation is usually included inside the punctuation marks in the United States, not outside.

“That’s the prettiest rose I’ve ever seen,” she gushed.

The first word is capitalized  inside the opening quotation mark, and the comma at the end is inside the closing quotation mark. It’s a comma because there is a dialogue attribution that follows. Notice that the dialogue attribution is not its own sentence. She is not capitalized in this instance.

“That’s the prettiest rose I’ve ever seen.” She gently stroked the velvety petals.

In this variation, there is a period at the end of the dialogue inside the quotation marks. The next sentence describes the character’s actions, which serve to remind us that she is also the speaker, since it’s immediately following the dialogue in the same paragraph.

Tutorial Tuesday – Grammar: Than and Then!

Streamed live on Nov 7, 2012

It’s easy to get than and then mixed up. Yes, they sound similar… not exactly alike, but similar. Than rhymes with pan and then rhymes with pen. See?

Two different, separate words. Most of us use them correctly when we speak…. just not when we write. How do we remember which is which? It isn’t too hard.


It’s a conjunction (Remember “Conjunction Junction… what’s your function?” from Schoolhouse Rock?) their used when you are comparing something.

I like cheesecake better than strudel.

Schoolhouse Rock, conjunction junction on YouTube, watch it here:


It’s an adverb that deals with time. You use it when you want to tell the order in which something happened or that you should do things. You see it a lot in recipes.

Plate up the noodles and then add the sauce.

Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here – Schoolhouse Rock on YouTube, watch it here:

All you really need to do when you are stuck in the Than or Then quandary is ask yourself… are you comparing something or telling the order in which something occurs. If you find you are not making a comparison, use then. If you are, use than.

Tutorial Tuesday – Grammar: Its and It’s

Streamed live on Oct 30, 2012

Tuesday Tutorials…

Helping you with your grammar… one small tutorial at a time!

Rakestraw Book Design

Okay. You’re writing and suddenly you can’t remember if you need it’s or its. When in doubt, use the apostrophe, right? WRONG. There is a simple way to double check if you’re using the right version.


This is possessive. Unlike most possessive words like Mom’s flowers, Sarah’s jeans or the man’s tie, when you use the possessive of it you don’t use an apostrophe. Why? Because the apostrophe is already being used in the other form… see the next paragraph.

For example: The dog chewed its food carefully instead of gulping.


This is NOT possessive. This is a contraction of the words ‘it is.’ If you can replace ‘it’s’ in your sentence with ‘it is,’ use the apostrophe.

For example: It’s not my fault the cat escaped when the door was open.

This can also be written: It is not my fault the cat escaped when the door was open.

This is the contraction version, so use the apostrophe.

Is it all clear? This is a simple rule to remember, so there won’t be any trouble figuring out which one to use in the future when you write. Just ask yourself that little question… can I replace it with ‘it is’? If not, you are probably using it as a possessive, which means… all together now…. no apostrophe!

Happy writing!


Eats, Shoots & Leaves Illustrated Edition, by Lynne Truss
The Associated Press Guide To Punctuation, by Rene J. Cappon