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Quotation Marks

quotation marks

We use quotation marks to show (or mark) the beginning and end of a word or phrase that is somehow special or comes from outside the text that we are writing. Quotation marks can be double ("...") or single ('...') - that is really a matter of style (but see below for more about this).

Quotation marks are also called "quotes" or "inverted commas".

1. Use quotation marks around the title or name of a book, film, ship etc:

Note that in the above case, we may use "italics" instead of quotation marks. So the above examples would then appear as:

Obviously, the use of italics is not possible in handwriting or with old-style typewriters.

2. We use quotation marks around a piece of text that we are quoting or citing, usually from another source:

3. Use quotation marks around dialogue or direct speech:

4. Use quotation marks around a word or phrase that we see as slang or jargon:

5. Use quotation marks around a word or phrase that we want to make "special" in some way:

Double or single quotation marks?

double quotation markssingle quotation marks

Quotation marks can be double ("-") or single ('-'). If we want to use quotation marks inside quotation marks, then we use single inside double, or double inside single.

Punctuation inside or outside final quotation mark?

If the quoted words end with a full stop, then the full stop goes inside the quotation marks. If the quoted words do not end with a full stop, then the full stop goes outside the quotation marks:

Note that in US English, the full stop usually goes inside the quotation marks in all cases:

However, US English adopts the British style for question marks and exclamation marks:

How do we indicate quotation marks when speaking?

People may say "quote, unquote" or "open quotes, close quotes" when reading aloud texts containing quotation marks:

"Quote, unquote" may also be said informally in front of rather than around the quoted words:

"Quote, unquote" is sometimes used to mock or show disapproval or disbelief:

People sometimes say "in quotes" (often putting up their two hands with two fingers extended on each hand, like quotation marks), indicating that the words came from another source, or in a mocking way, or suggesting that they don't quite believe what they have just said:

Please note: There are some differences in the use of quotation marks between various varieties of English such as British English or American English. Anyone seeking guidance at an advanced level is recommended to consult a style guide (often included in good dictionaries) for their particular variety.