Quotation Mark

Rules and Examples


Punctuation marksA quotation mark looks like two apostrophes together and is always written in pairs (Like this: “ ” or like this: " ").

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The quotation mark is used in written language to quote exact words from spoken or written language.


But that is not all! Here is a list of the main uses:

1. To quote exact words from spoken or written language.

Examples:
  • Anthony J. D'Angelo said, "Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow."

  • She said, "Come home."

  • "This is a new car," Jeff explained.
New car


2. To show titles. The titles can be of short stories, poems, articles, chapters, etc.

Examples:
  • My favorite poem by Emily Dickinson is "There Is Another Sky."

  • Did you read the article "Building Vocabulary"?

  • The first chapter in the book is "The Tall Tree."
Tall tree

3. To show that a word or phrase is used in an unusual way. 

Examples: 
  • Her "farewell present" was a slammed door.
    (= It was not really a farewell present.)

  • What does this "expert" claim?
    (= The writer does not really think this person is an expert.)

  • She shared her "wisdom" with me.
    (= The writer thinks she told things that were not so wise.)

  • He could "see" my thoughts.
    (= The writer knows the word see is not used this way exactly, but is trying to illustrate the idea.)

  • You should "pay" her with your love.
    (= The writer knows the word pay is not used this way exactly, but is trying to illustrate the idea.)

  • He was "delighted" to read the news.
    (= He was not so delighted...)

Irony


4. To show that a word is used as a word, or that a letter is used as a letter.

Examples:
  • Look up the word "calm" in the dictionary.

  • "Face" comes from Latin.

  • To get the past form, add "ed" after "walk."

  • She did not understand the word "overweight."
Overweight

On the keyboard

You can make quotation marks on most computers by holding the SHIFT key and pressing the apostrophe/quotation mark key to the left of ENTER.


Rules for the Quotation Mark

1. Quotation marks are always used in pairs. If you open a quotation, you have to close it.

Incorrect:
"I am studying to become a teacher, she said.

Correct: "I am studying to become a teacher," she said.

Incorrect: She performed the poem, "There is another sky by Emily Dickinson.

Correct: She performed the poem, "Where the Sidewalk Ends," by Emily Dickinson.


2. The period and comma can go inside or outside the quotation mark, depending on the following factors.

In American English, periods and commas always go inside the quotation marks, even if it does not seem to make sense.

Example in American English:
  • My students enjoyed reading "Oranges."
  • "We should go home," said Bob.

In British English, Canadian English and islands under the influence of British education, punctuation with quotation marks makes more logical sense. Periods and commas that are not part of the quoted sentence go outside the quotation marks.

Example in British English:
  • My students enjoyed reading "Oranges".
    (The period is not part of the title, so it goes outside.)

  • "We should go home", said Bob.
    (The comma is not part of the quote so it goes outside.)

  • She said, "I will definitely do it."
    (Here the period is part of the quote since it goes inside.)

3. The placement of question marks and exclamation points with quotation marks follows logic.
  • If the punctuation mark belongs to the title or quote, then it goes inside.

  • If the punctuation mark does not belong to the title or quote, then it goes outside.

Examples:

  • He said, "do you want to stay?"

  • Did you watch "Spider-Man"?

  • Joan yelled, "Stop talking!" She was pretty upset.

  • Melissa told me, "You are the best"! I was so happy to hear that!

4. Semicolons and colons always go outside the quotation marks.

  • Incorrect: I love "Where the Sidewalk Ends;" however, my favorite poem is by Robert Frost.

    Correct: I love "Where the Sidewalk Ends"; however, my favorite poem is by Robert Frost.

  • Incorrect: The following fruit are called "tropical:" bananas, coconuts and pineapples.

    Correct: The following fruit are called "tropical": bananas, coconuts and pineapples.


Summary Table

Punctuation markPositionExamples
PeriodAmerican: inside
British: follows logic
American:
Read the chapter "Fish."

British:
 
Read the chapter "Fish".
CommaAmerican: inside
British: follows logic
American:
"You are right," she said.

British:
"You are right", she said.
Exclamation pointAmerican and British: follows logicAmerican and British:
Dan said, "Let's go!"
Janet forgot the book "Wild Sea"!
Question markAmerican and British: follows logicAmerican and British:
Did you read "Wild Sea"?
He asked, "Did we meet?"
ColonAmerican and British: outsideAmerican and British:
Here is what we mean by "late": five minutes or more after 7 AM.
SemicolonAmerican and British: outsideAmerican and British:
They wanted to watch "Spider-Man"; Tom did not.

5. Punctuation around quoted speech depends on how it fits into the rest of the text.

  • If a quoted word or phrase fits into the sentence without a break or pause, then we usually do not use commas.
Example:

I read "The Lost Keys" any time I need a laugh!

  • You almost always need a comma following a form of to say. Place a comma directly after, then a space, then the quotation mark.
Some forms of to say are: says, said, replied, yelled, asked and exclaimed.

Examples:

She said, "Keep your hands to yourself."

He replied, "I left the keys in the car."

  • If the quote comes after an independent clause (a sentence that can be by itself), use a colon ( : ) before the quoted sentence.
Example:

My dad's favorite saying was from my Grandmother: "If you do not have anything nice to say, do not say anything at all."

  • When a form of to say comes in the middle of the quoted sentence, use commas on both sides. The first comma will be inside of the quotations. The second comma will be directly after the word said (or another form of to say).
Examples:

"Your brother," my mom said, "wants you to be at his party."

"My wedding is in two weeks," she exclaimed, "and I am so excited!"


6. When using quotation marks in writing to show different speakers, make a new paragraph for each change of speaker.

Example:

"Please clean your room," mom said.

I replied, "I do not want to clean my room."

"Then you will not go to the park today," she told me.

"I guess I will clean my room!" I exclaimed.

7. Capitalize the first letter of a quote if the quote is a complete sentence.

Incorrect: When Bill came home he asked, "who made this mess?"

Correct: When Bill came home he asked, "Who made this mess?"

Quotation marks inside quotation marks

In American English, use single quotation marks on the inside and double quotation marks on the outside.

For example: She said, "I read the chapter 'The Tall Tree' yesterday."


British English varies on this, but in many cases the double quotation marks are inside and the single quotation marks are outside.

For example: She said, 'I read the chapter "The Tall Tree" yesterday.'
 
  
This article describes double quotation marks ( " ” or " " ), but there are also single quotation marks ( ‘ ’ or ' ' ).

Visit also: Quotation Marks Worksheets

These were the uses of the Quotation Mark. Now that you know them, it is time to practice! Read and do exercises.

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