2

How do I punctuate a statement that a character is ordered to say in a future scenario?

I don't want to use speech marks because its not a quote or a dialogue. My thinking may be wrong though.

It's an instruction to say something in a future scenario.

For example:

We were told by the headmaster never to engage with bullies. If you are ever abused by them, say: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

Here the statement in question is:

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

4

But those words are a quote, so they should be quoted.

If your text is in first person — so that your narration is actually the thoughts of the narrator speaking to the reader — then you'd use speech quotes. (In the U.S. it's double quotes; in the U.K. and other places it's single. I'm using U.S. punctuation as the example.)

We were told by the headmaster never to engage with bullies. If you are ever abused by them, say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." I'm not sure where the headmaster got his ideas from, but the tactic never worked for me.

If your text is Person A speaking to Person B, then the relevant statement is a quote inside dialogue, and punctuate it appropriately with nested quotes:

John said, "We were told by the headmaster never to engage with bullies. If you are ever abused by them, say, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.' Personally, I found a good right hook to be more effective than a weak cliché."

5
  • Thank you Lauren, but the sense I am trying to achieve is not a quote from the headmater nor is it a dialogue between A and B. It is the narrator addressing the reader and telling the reader to say: Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. May 11 '15 at 8:21
  • Imagine for example a leaflet distributed at school for students with the following guidelines: Bullies do not deserve attention. If they abuse you, then say to them: Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. May 11 '15 at 8:39
  • 2
    @nicholasainsworth I would still use double quotes. Bullies do not deserve attention. If they abuse you, then say to them: "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me." The sentence in question is being quoted from future dialogue, odd as that sounds. May 11 '15 at 9:25
  • Thank you Lauren. Is there such a thing as "Future Dialogue" mentioned in editing guides etc? May 11 '15 at 10:23
  • 1
    @nicholasainsworth I haven't seen it in particular, no, but I think quoted material is quoted material regardless of when it happens relative to when it's being quoted. May 11 '15 at 12:09
1

I would just place inverted commas around the statement. The fact that it is speech is given away by the word 'say'.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.