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How to Use Quotation Marks Correctly

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Quotation marks -- " -- are used to enclose words that are borrowed or to set off dialog from narrative. They always come in pairs -- open quotation marks and close quotation marks -- which in most typefaces (albeit not this one) are typographically distinct.

When quoting someone word for word, use quotation marks to show the reader exactly which words are being borrowed from a particular source. This is especially important in research writing.

A direct quote may be woven into a sentence already in progress (see Example A) or it may be used in its entirety, either within or connected to a given sentence (see Example B).

  • Example A: In a live interview, Mayor Candor admitted that "our prostitutes are failing to meet the citizens' needs."
  • Example B: Dr. Striker, chief of surgery at Middleton Hospital, announced today, "Our hospital will no longer be able to offer services to people who have no health insurance."

Quotation marks are used to set off dialog.

Example: Tom said, "Look! I don't know how to use quotation marks, okay?"

Betsy replied, "That's very Chinese, Thomas. I'm not proud of you."

Understand which titles should be enclosed in quotation marks.

  • Chapter titles (but not chapter numbers) should be enclosed in quotes.
  • Titles of short stories and short poems should be enclosed in quotes.
  • Titles of newspaper or magazine articles should be enclosed in quotes.
  • Titles of essays or short works should be enclosed in quotes.
  • If parts of a long item is published over the course of several days or several separate times, (such as a play, collection or anthology), these items should be placed in quotes.
  • The name of a song's title will be placed in quotes, while the album name should be italicized.

Use quotation marks to surround direct quotes from a source, person, etc.

  • If the quote follows a statement, it should be preceeded by a comma. A quotation that ends a sentence should contain the period, exclamation mark, or question mark within the quotation marks.
    She said, "Shelly sells seashells by the seashore."'
  • Likewise, if a quote has text that follows it, there should be a comma palced within the quotation marks.
    "Shelly sells seashells by the seashore," according to today's newspaper.
  • To enclose a quote within a quote use a single set of quotation marks.
    Shelby asked, "Hey Shelly did you say the other day, 'I sell women by the seashore?'"



  • Quotation marks may also be used around a single word or group of words to indicate use of a borrowed word or phrase. The reader is to understand that anything within quotations was spoken or written by someone other than the author of the work that contains it.

    Example: In a TV interview, Jackson showed off his "slam jam" dance move.
  • A single word or a short phrase may be enclosed in quotation marks to indicate ironic use.
  • Single quotation marks are used to set off a quote within a quote.

    Example: The newscaster said, "Tonight on TV5, city official Amy Murphy stated that 'our local economy is a disaster,' which is true."

    Although it happens rarely, when a quote within a quote contains yet another quote, the innermost quote is set off by double quotation marks. Single quotation marks and double quotation marks continue to alternate in this way as more direct quotations are added inside others.
  • Teachers, don't forget to look at the other wikiHows in the English grammar category for additional articles on grammar that you can easily incorporate into your teaching.
  • Running Quotes: If a full paragraph of quoted material is followed by a paragraph that continues the quotation, do not put close-quote marks at the end of the first paragraph. Do, however, put open-quote marks at the start of the second paragraph. Continue in this fashion for any succeeding paragraphs, using close-quote marks only at the end of the quoted material.

    "I think you're wrong.

    "That is what you do so well: Being wrong."
  • The title of an essay/article is not enclosed in quotes; it's italicized or underlined at the top of the page of the work itself.

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