Quotation Marks


Quotation marks are a crucial part of our written language. They're used to denote speech, highlight certain words or phrases, quote directly from text, or sometimes indicate irony or sarcasm. There are two types of quotation marks used in English: double quotation marks (“ ”) and single quotation marks (‘ ’). In this tutorial, we will cover the use of both types in-depth, aim to eliminate any confusion and help you improve your writing skills.

Direct Quotations

One of the most common uses for quotation marks is to show direct quotations. These are the exact words someone has spoken or written.

To illustrate, let's look at an example:

Example: John said, “I will be five minutes late.”

In this sentence, the words directly spoken by John are enclosed within quotation marks.

Dividing a quotation

Sometimes, a quotation is interrupted by 'he said' or 'she said' in between. In such cases, quotation marks are placed at the beginning and end of the quoted words, and at the beginning of any words quoted after the interruption.

Example: “I don’t care,” she said, “what you think.”

Quotations within quotations

When we have a quotation within another quotation, we use single quotation marks.

Example: David said, “Did you hear him say, ‘I'm not coming’?”

In the sentence, the words ‘I'm not coming’ are the inner quotation, and hence are enclosed in single quotation marks, while the whole speech is enclosed in double quotation marks.

Indirect Quotations

Quotation marks are not used for indirect quotations. These are the quotations where we paraphrase what someone has said, not the exact words.

Example: John said that he would be five minutes late.

Quotation Marks with Other Punctuation

One of the common areas of confusion is whether other punctuation should go outside or inside the quotation marks. Here are the general rules that should help you:

1. Periods and commas always go inside the quotation marks. Example: “I love football,” he said.

2. Question marks and exclamation points go inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quote but outside if they are part of the entire sentence. Example: Did he just say, “see you later”?

3. Colons and semicolons, when they are used, always go outside the quotation marks. Example: She had one favorite mantra: “always be kind.”

Single Quotation Marks

As we saw earlier, single quotation marks are used when a quotation is within another quotation. However, in British English, single quotation marks are used as the primary mark and double quotation marks are used for quotes within quotes.

Example: David said, ‘Did you hear him say, “I'm not coming”?’

Quotation Marks for Emphasis

Sometimes we use quotation marks to highlight a specific word or phrase and to draw attention to it. This is often used when writing about words themselves.

Example: The word 'compromise' does not appear in his vocabulary.

Quotation Marks for Irony or Sarcasm

Quotation marks can also be used to denote irony or sarcasm. By putting the word or words in quotes, we indicate that the term is not being used in its standard, dictionary-defined sense.

Example: Thanks for not helping me at all with my luggage, you’re quite the 'gentleman'.


Quotation marks are an essential part of our written language. With this guide, you should now feel more comfortable using quotation marks accurately in your writing. Remember that correct usage enhances clarity and professionalism in your writing.

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