Interrupted Quotations

(Also Called Divided Quotations)


Quotations are used in writing to tell the reader that someone is speaking.

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Sometimes a writer needs to interrupt or divide a quotation.

In interrupted quotations, the speaker tag comes in the middle of the quotation and in the middle of the sentence.men talking

The speaker tag is the part of the sentence that tells the reader who is talking.

Examples of speaker tags:
  • he said
  • the boy stated
  • exclaimed Mary
  • the teacher explained
  • asked Bill

First, let us look at some regular quotations with speaker tags.

Here is a regular quotation with the speaker tag at the beginning of the quoted sentence.


My brother said, "I need the car today, so I can go to work."


Here is another regular quotation with the speaker tag at the end of the quoted sentence.


"When you do your math homework tonight, remember to show all of your work," explained the teacher.


teacher


We can make both of these sentences into interrupted quotations by putting the speaker tag in the middle of the quoted sentence.


"I need the car today," my brother said, "so I can go to work."


"When you do your math homework tonight," explained the teacher, "remember to show all of your work."

Rules for writing interrupted quotations:

1. Use quotation marks around both parts of the interrupted quotation


Examples:
  • "The book," whispered the librarian, "is on the second shelf by the wall."

  • "When Mom comes home," my sister said, "tell her I'm going to Sandy's house." 


    girl on phone

2. Quotations are separated from the speaker tag with commas

A) For the first half of the quotation, put the comma inside the quotation marks

B) For the second half of the quotation, put the comma after the speaker tag

Examples:
  • "Did you know," asked the teacher, "that salamanders are amphibians?"

    Notice that the first comma is after the word "know" and inside the quotation marks.

    The second comma is after the word "teacher" and before the second set of quotation marks.

  • "My love," swooned the man, "will you marry me?"

    Notice that the first comma is after the word "love" and inside the quotation marks.

    The second comma is after the word "man" and before the second set of quotation marks.

    man proposing to woman

3. Follow normal capitalization rules

A)    Capitalize the first word in the sentence

Examples:
  • "Your dog ran out the door," she said, "because you left it open."

  • "My husband took me out for my birthday, "Mrs. Smith exclaimed, "and then gave me new earrings!"
women talking


B)    The second half of the quotation does not begin with a capital letter, unless it is a proper noun or title

Examples:
  • "Please tell your parents, "the man on the phone said, "Amy will be there at 5:00."

    In this sentence, "Amy" is capitalized in the second half of the quotation because it is a name and a proper noun. 

  • "Students," Miss Smith instructed, "please line up at the door."

    In this sentence, "please" is not capitalized because it is not a proper noun or a title.

    "Miss Smith" is capitalized because it is a proper noun.

4. End punctuation goes inside the final quotation marks

Incorrect:
  • Did you know," asked Mrs. Jones, "that the sunflower is the state flower of Kansas"?
Correct:
  • Did you know," asked Mrs. Jones, "that the sunflower is the state flower of Kansas?"
woman with sunflowers
Incorrect:
  • "When your brother gets home,'" my dad yelled, "tell him I need to talk to him in my office"!
Correct:
  • "When your brother gets home,'" my dad yelled, "tell him I need to talk to him in my office!"

    man yelling

These were the rules of Interrupted Quotations. Now that you know them, it is time to practice! Get our ESL Books.

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