Quotation Marks

Quotation marks (" ") are a pair of punctuation marks used primarily to mark the beginning and end of a passage attributed to another and repeated word for word. They are also used to indicate meanings and to indicate the unusual or dubious status of a word.

Use quotation marks to cite something someone said exactly. When rephrasing what someone told you, no quotation marks are needed.

  • "I'm going to the store now," she said.
  • Harry told me, "Don't forget your soccer jersey."
  • Harry told me not to forget my soccer jersey.

If quoting others within a quote, both single and double quotation marks are used to set the two separate quotations off from each other.


'I haven't spoken to Peter for months,' Dianne said.'The last time I spoke to him he said, "I'm going to Bahrain and won't be back for about three years", I've heard nothing since then'.

You may see single or double quotation marks used to mark out idiomatic or unfamiliar expressions

  • I've always thought that he was very annoying, a bit of a 'pain in the neck.'
  • I'm not sure what you mean by "custodial care", but I'm sure you will explain it to me.

Quotation marks both single and double are also used for specific purposes in bibliographic references or when citing sources in academic writing. There are a number of ways of organising bibliographies which set out standard formats. Most organisations and academic institutions will prefer one of these or have their own format published in a 'style guide'.

  • "The Migration Flight of the Lesser Tweazle", by Jeremey Adams, The Bird Spotter Magazine, July 2009.

Direct speech

Direct speech gives the actual words that a speaker used. It is common in novels and other writing where the actual words of a speaker are quoted (see Reporting speech).The words spoken are enclosed in single or double quotation marks.

               ‘Have you been to the new shopping precinct yet?’ enquired Shona.              “I’ve already seen it,” John replied.

The comma comes inside the quotation marks, unless the reporting verb is positioned inside a reported sentence that itself does not require a comma.

  • There is’, Monica said, ‘nothing we can do about it.’

Other uses

Single quotation marks are sometimes used:

- to draw attention to a word
     The word ‘book’ can be used as a noun or a verb.
- to indicate an unusual use of a word
     She pointed out that websites used for internet voting could be ‘spoofed’.
- to suggest that the writer want to be distanced from a word.
     I don’t agree with this ‘mercy killing’ business.
*Note that the full stop comes after the quotation marks in such cases.

Use quotation marks when you want to show the exact words of a speaker or writer. Place all commas and periods inside of the quotation marks.

Incorrect: "The only dumb question", the instructor said, "is the one you don't ask".
Correct: "The only dumb question," the instructor said, "is the one you don't ask."

Use quotation marks when you want to quote or show the titles of short stories, novellas, articles, chapter titles in books, poems, television shows, songs, and papers that you write.

Incorrect: I read the poem The Tyger, the other day.
Correct: I read the poem "The Tyger," the other day.
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