Quotation Marks

  • To imply alternative meanings and write words as words, we use quotation marks with direct quotations.
  • Block quotations should not be compared with quotation marks.
  • The quoted text is capitalized if you’re quoting a complete sentence and not capitalized if you’re quoting a fragment.

What is the best place to put commas or periods?

  • American English English English has periods and commas that go within the quotation marks. Dashes, colons and semicolons are almost always outside the quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation marks can sometimes go inside and sometimes stay outside.

When should you use quotation marks

Quotation marks are for when you want to use someone else’s words in your writing. Let’s say you want to write about something you heard your friend say. It could be done this way:

It is possible to write about the same subject without using quotation marks. However, there are a few changes you might make:

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The first sentence includes the following: direct quoteYou will be reporting the exact words John used in this quote. An anagram of the second sentence is: indirect quoteIt is a paraphrased translation of John’s words. QuotationMarks can only be used with direct quotations

This rule isn’t just for speech. If you’re quoting a written source, you should still put the quote between quotation marks unless you plan to paraphrase it.

Block and run-in quotations

You can choose between run-in or block direct quotations. The run-in quotations are shorter, and are formatted in the same way as the surrounding text. Long quotes are called block quotes. They are different from the surrounding text. They are usually displayed as separate paragraphs (or series) in a different font or with a larger margin. In any case, block quotes don’t need quotation marks to set them off from the remaining text, even though they are direct quotes.

And in case you’re wondering just how long a quote needs to get for it to be a block quote, it varies from one style guide to another. You should review a style guide if you must. If you don’t have to follow a style guide, set your own rule (like five lines of text makes a block quotation), and stick to it.

Quotation mark rules

The first rule of using quotations is that once they’re opened, they have to be closed. It is important that the person who reads your work knows where the quote begins and ends. But that’s an easy one. But what about the more complicated rules for quotation marks?

Capitalization and quotes

Sometimes, the text inside quotation marks is capitalized, other times it isn’t. Capitalization of the quoted material depends on the material itself—if you’re quoting a complete sentence, you should start the quote with a capital letterEven if the quote is in the middle of the sentence, it will still be pronounced:

If you’re quoting a phrase or a part of a sentence, don’t start the quote with a capital letterThis is:

If you’re splitting a quote in half to interject a parenthetical, you should not capitalize the second part of the quoteThis is:

QuotationMarks and other punctuation marks

Does punctuation go inside or outside quotation marks? This question mostly refers to the sentence-ending punctuation marks—Punctuation marks used to introduce a quotation are not placed within quotation marks.

One thing is different about sentence-ending punctuation. The United States has this rule: Commas and periods must always be within the quotation marks. Collons and semicolons (also called daashes) should be outside.This is:

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“There was a storm last night,” Paul said.

Peter, however, didn’t believe him. “I’m not sure that’s exactly what happened.”

Peter was aware of what he called “Paul’s weakness triangle”: he was half deaf, slept like a log, and was prone to lying.

Paul saw an argument coming, so he muttered only “But I saw it”; this was going to be a long night and he didn’t want to start it with a fight.

Exclamation points and question marks have their own rules.

They must apply to the quoted material within the quotation marks. They apply to the entire sentence.This is:

Sandy asked them, “Why do you guys always fight?”

Did the dog bark every time he heard Sandy say “I’m bringing dinner”?

Quotes within quotes

You now know how to use quotation marks and punctuation. What if the quote that you want to accept already includes quotation marks? It can also happen. Imagine that you are asked to quote someone who is praising their favourite chapter in one of Harry Potter’s books. You would do it this way?

““The Dementor’s Kiss” is my favorite chapter in the whole series,” Tom said.

It doesn’t work, does it? It might even cause confusion in your word processing program. You will be able to make everything look better if it is done this way.

“‘The Dementor’s Kiss’ is my favorite chapter in the whole series,” Tom said.

Isn’t that better? Quotes within quotations are made using single quotation marks

Another uses of quotation marks include titles of short works and words as words. Scare quotes are another example.

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Besides setting off other people’s words, quotation marks have a couple of other uses. Depending on the style guide you’re using, you might use quotation marks to emphasize titles of all types of compositions (AP Stylebook), or just short compositions (most of the other style guides). Italicize the titles of books and magazines. Poems, chapters, articles—smaller bodies of work, or bodies of work which form a larger body of work—are emphasized by using quotation marks.

To signify words that are used as words, you can use quotation marks. For example: “inhale” means to take a breath. The quotation marks show that you’re talking about the word itself, not the action of inhaling. However, you’ll often hear that it’s better to italicize words used as words rather than put them in quotation marks—different style guides might prescribe different rules.

Some writers use quotes to emphasize words they are trying to distance themselves from. QuotationThis is a common way to refer to marks as scare quotes or shudder quotations. It’s a way of implying that you’re using a term in an unusual way or that you don’t necessarily approve of it:

Scare quotes are a bit like air quotes. You know enough about air quotes to know that they should not be used without moderation. Scare quotes are no different.

Sometimes, you might see quotation marks instead of parentheses in translations. You can also write translations as follows:

He was told by her Bonjour(good day)

You can do it this way:

He was told by her Bonjour, “good day,” when they met.

Single quotation marks

We’ve already mentioned that single quotation marks can be used for quotes within quotes. But that’s not all they can do—they can also be used instead of parentheses for translations, but in that case, they don’t have to be separated by commas:

He was told by her Bonjour ‘good day’ when they met.

Single quotation marks can be used to express highly specialized terms in specific fields.

Many scholars still argue about Lacan’s ‘desire’ and its implications.

Single quotation marks can be used in headlines of newspaper articles instead of double quotation marks. And of course, all of these rules apply to American English—single vs. double quotation marks is a whole different story in British English.

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