Careless quoting is a writing crime. Fiction or nonfiction, a writer must be scrupulous in quoting words precisely and crediting their source. Most publishing contracts hold the author liable for misrepresentations and plagiarism, but even without that legal pressure, a writer, of all people, should naturally respect the intellectual property of others.
Narrators and characters in novels and other creative writing can talk about whatever they want. A character might read the Chicago Sun-Times; they might say they like to sing “Drivers License” while brushing their teeth. A narrator might mention a famous poem or novel or TV show: “The host didn’t mention that he’d heard the same joke on The Simpsons.”
An epigraph is a brief quotation placed at the beginning of a book or at the head of a chapter, article, story, or other work. Most epigraphs are ornamental, helping to set the tone or mood of a work but going unmentioned in the text.
Interruptions happen all the time in real life. People talk over each other and past each other; words collide and overlap. Sometimes an action or a thought rather than a person intrudes, causing a speaker to stop abruptly or, less dramatically, to trail off midsentence.
According to The Chicago Manual of Style, commas and periods are almost always placed before a closing quotation mark, “like this,” rather than after, “like this”. This traditional style has persisted even though it’s no longer universally followed outside of the United States and isn’t entirely logical.
Chicago’s main system for citing sources—and the subject of chapter 14 of CMOS—consists of numbered notes in the text and a corresponding list of sources in a bibliography.
Blurbs are quotations of praise that appear on book covers and jackets, in press releases, on author websites, posters, and ads, in social media, and in the unnumbered pages at the beginning of a novel or creative nonfiction book. They may be solicited or excerpted from published reviews.
In our Fiction+ series, we set out to help CMOS users adapt Chicago style to creative writing contexts. Sometimes, Chicago’s general guidelines already work just fine; other times, they need a little noodge to sit comfortably on a page of fiction.
In novels and stories and other creative works, words spoken by a character are normally set off from the narrative with quotation marks, and the speaker is identified in the run of text by tags like “she said.”
This month’s workout, “Commas with Quotations and Questions,” is taken from CMOS 17, paragraphs 6.40–42. Advanced editors might tackle the questions cold; learners can study paragraphs 6.40–42 of the Manual before answering the questions.