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Quotation Marks

No one agrees about quotation marks. American usage is frequently the exact opposite of British usage, Canadians often form a hybrid, and exceptions abound. So, can you just do what you like with quotation marks? Well, not quite. Here are some rules that you do need to follow:

American Style: 5 Easy Rules

1. Enclose Direct Quotes in Double Quotation Marks

A direct quote is word-for-word and is not introduced by the word “that”.

Direct: Maurice said, “There will be croissants at brunch.”

Indirect: Maurice said that there would be croissants at brunch.

Double quotation marks look like this: “ ”

Words that you are trying to distinguish from the rest of the sentence can be put in double quotation marks, too.

I always misspell “embarrass” and “definitely.”

2. Place All Periods and Commas Inside Quotation Marks

 Whether or not this punctuation was part of the original material that you’re quoting, it goes inside the quotes.

“Their,” “they’re,” and “there” are commonly confused.

Hannah announced her intention “to systematize quotation mark usage once and for all.”

3. Place Colons and Semicolons Outside Quotation Marks

 Whether or not this punctuation was part of the original material that you’re quoting, it goes outside the quotes.

At the meeting, Mr. Suzuki revealed his “sure-to-succeed strategy”: blogging, networking, and advertising.

Cathy responded, “My music is only suited for sophisticated ears”; City Music Review considers this statement insulting.

4. Place Question and Exclamation Marks Where They Fit Logically

 If your quote is a question, place the question mark inside the quotation marks. If your sentence is a question, place the question mark outside the quotation marks. The same rules apply for exclamation marks.

Alexander asked, “Have you ever seen a wolf on the beach?”

Do you know who said, “We’re all worms, but I am a glow worm”?

The pirate bellowed, “Avast mateys!”

I published my poem “Blog Blues”!

5. For Quoted Material Inside a Quotation, Use Single Quotation Marks

“And then Phoebe said, ‘I’m busy on Friday too’,” sighed Amanda.

British Style: 5 Logical Rules

1. Enclose Direct Quotes in Single Quotation Marks

 Yep! That’s the opposite of American style.

Maurice said, ‘There will be croissants at brunch’.

Single quotation marks look like this: ‘ ’

Words that you are trying to distinguish from the rest of the sentence can be put in single quotation marks, too.

I always misspell ‘embarrass’ and ‘definitely’.

2. Place Periods and Commas Where They Fit Logically

 If the comma or period is part of what you’re quoting, place it inside the quotes. If not, place it outside.

“Their”, “they’re”, and “there” are commonly confused.

“I was reading about how important a  healthy lifestyle is,” said Jaques, “so I’m going to start exercising more.”

Hannah announced her intention “to systematize quotation mark usage once and for all”.

If the period could go inside or outside the quotes, place it outside:

My dad always said, “Eat your broccoli”.

3. Place Colons and Semicolons Outside Quotation Marks

This is exactly the same as American English! Whether or not this punctuation was part of the original material that you’re quoting, it goes outside the quotes.

At the meeting, Mr. Suzuki revealed his “sure-to-succeed strategy”: blogging, networking, and advertising.

Cathy responded, “My music is only suited for sophisticated ears”; City Music Review considers this statement insulting.

4. Place Question and Exclamation Marks Where They Fit Logically

Hey! This is the same as American usage, too! If your quote is a question, place the question mark inside the quotation marks. If your sentence is a question, place the question mark outside the quotation marks. The same rules apply for exclamation marks.

Alexander asked, “Have you ever seen a wolf on the beach?”

Do you know who said, “We’re all worms, but I am a glow worm”?

The pirate bellowed, “Avast mateys!”

I published my poem “Blog Blues”!

5. For Quoted Material Inside a Quotation, Use Double Quotation Marks

‘And then Phoebe said, “I’m busy on Friday too”’, sighed Amanda.

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