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What is the correct punctuation surrounding the quoted question in this example:

When a neighbor asks, "When are we getting together?" that is the beginning of building community.

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Your example is correct in both American and British English.

In English:

  • commas replace full stops in quotations, but not exclamation or question marks

Therefore the following are all correct:

When a neighbor says, "We are getting together," that is the beginning of building community. (American English)
When a neighbor says, "We are getting together", that is the beginning of building community. (British English)
When a neighbor asks, "When are we getting together?" that is the beginning of building community. (British and American English)

But it looks strange not to have commas on both sides of the quotation, and in fact the last clause has a longer pause before it, when you speak it, and might be better offset with a dash:

Getting together – that is the beginning of building community.
When a neighbor asks, "When are we getting together?" – that is the beginning of building community.

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  • Thank you. Your two suggestions of no comma following the question mark and quotations mark, and using a dash were my two ideas. As I understand you, either would work, but the dash provides a longer pause, right?
    – Janet
    Oct 30, 2023 at 18:08
  • @Janet Without dash, the sentence is just a simple statement: "Getting together is the beginning of building community." With dash there is an emphasis: "Getting together – that is the beginning of building community." You emphasize the singular importance of getting together. (Or of a neighbor asking about getting together, in your original example.)
    – Ben
    Oct 30, 2023 at 18:36

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