Learn how and when to use quotation marks (“) with example sentences and infographic. You will also learn the differences between American and British uses of these punctuation marks.
Quotation marks (“)
What are quotation marks?
These punctuation marks are used in pairs. Each pair may consist of two identical sets of vertical marks, above the level of the line of type, or there may be opening and closing curved quotation marks (“) and (”). In print the curved quotation marks are preferable, but so-called “straight quotes” are often used both online and in print for simplicity’s sake and to ensure proper rendering on the screen online.
As the name suggests, these marks most often serve the purpose of indicating that material in the text has been quoted exactly from another source. They have many other uses, however.
When to use quotation marks
They have four general uses:
1) They indicate that text is being quoted exactly, with no changes.
- “Stadium construction is estimated to cost $656 million,” the mayor said.
- “If you vote for me, I will employ thousands of local people on infrastructure projects,” the candidate promised.
2) In a work of fiction, they indicate that a character is speaking or thinking.
- Janet asked, “Why can’t we just leave the party now? Nobody will notice we’re gone.”
- “Why don’t we pay more attention to environmental problems?” John wondered.
3) They show the title of a short work, such as a song, a short story, or sometimes a film. Often quotation marks and italics may both be used for this purpose. These marks are preferred in media such newspapers, where italic fonts may not be available.
- “Avengers 3” is one of the top-grossing films of 2019.
- “Call Me Maybe” was a major hit for Canadian pop star Carly Rae Jepsen.
4) They may show skepticism on the part of the writer about the use of a specific term. Such skepticism may be indicated in speaking by raising the index and middle fingers of each hand as so-called “air quotes.” Quotation marks of this kind are sometimes called “scare quotes”—they are used to warn the reader that a term does not mean what it seems to mean.
- The “investing advice” he offered could have been acquired much more cheaply by simply reading the Yahoo Finance headlines every day.
- “Free time” in this job seems to mean time when you can do extra work outside your usual responsibilities.
Single quotation marks within a passage enclosed by double quotation marks
In American usage, if you include a quotation within a quotation, use single quotation marks for the internal quotation.
- The governor explained the plan this way: “We’re doing to apply the highway funds surplus, which the Secretary of the Treasury has said is ‘more than $50 million,’ to jump-start construction of the new stadium.”
Differences between American and British uses of quotation marks
In British English, single quotation marks may be used where American text would use double marks. Usage varies in Britain among different publishing houses.
- Jocelyn said, ‘You’ll never finish the job if you insist on doing it that way’.
- ‘I will resign if my plan does not pass the House of Commons‘, begged the prime minister.
In British English, punctuation is placed outside the closing quotation mark (in American English, put the comma and period inside, the semicolon outside).
- She said, ‘Meet me at Piccadilly Circus’.
- The most famous speech in Shakespeare’s plays begins with the words ‘To be or not to be’.
(“) Quotation marks infographic