How to Use Quotation Marks Correctly
Quotation marks are used to frame words that represent spoken language. They are also used to frame direct quotes. Though not often used in business writing or correspondence, quotation marks are often indispensable for works of fiction as well as many types of academic writing. Here is a brief guide to using quotation marks correctly.
When using quotation marks in the United States, place periods, question marks, exclamation points, and commas placed at the end of a statement inside as illustrated below.
When using quotation marks in Canada, the United Kingdom, and other places influenced by British education, quotation marks are always placed right next to titles, dialogue, and text being quoted as illustrated below.
- “What would you do,” I asked, “if money didn’t matter?”
- The king shouted, “Let the games begin!”
- My favorite novel of all time is Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire.”
Forms of “to say” are often used with quotation marks, particularly in essays and works of fiction. When using a form of “to say,” commas are almost always required before the quote or dialogue begins.
- “What would you do”, I asked, “if money didn’t matter”?
- The king shouted, “Let the games begin”!
- My favorite novel of all time is Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire”.
Punctuation throughout a sentence that includes quoted phrases or dialogue is dependent upon how that quoted material fits into the remainder of the text. If a quoted phrase, word, or dialogue fits into the flow of a sentence without need for a pause or break, a comma may be unnecessary.
- My grandmother always said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
In the event that quoted text follows an independent clause but fits best as part of the same sentence, use a colon before the quoted phrase, word, or dialogue.
- The words “lovely, pretty, and beautiful” are synonymous.
When writing dialogue and placing an attribution of speech between quoted language, use commas to set it apart as illustrated below.
- My grandfather’s favorite quote was from Shakespeare: “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
Use discretion though. Sometimes it is best to create new sentences inside dialogue text with attribution of speech between quoted language.
- “I’d like to know,” she said, “how you really feel about things.”
When writing dialogue, use a new paragraph each time someone new speaks, as illustrated.
- “I don’t care!” he shouted. “You’re just going to do whatever you want.”
- “You’re only saying that because you’re angry with me,” she said, pursing her lips and peering at Jared through half-closed eyes.
“Whatever you say” he replied.
“What do you mean, ‘Whatever I say?’” Elizabeth huffed. She was becoming angry herself and beginning to wish that she were elsewhere.
Notice that the last paragraph contains a quote enclosed in single quotation marks. These marks are always used to enclose dialogue or other quoted material within an existing set of quotation marks. Another example of this follows.
- “Did he say ‘I love you’ yet?” her mother asked.
When editing or proofreading your work, remember that quotation marks nearly always travel in pairs. There’s one exception to this rule: When quoted dialogue moves from one paragraph to another, the closing quotation mark appears at the end of the quoted language, even though there is a new quotation mark at the beginning of each paragraph of dialogue. This reminds the reader that quoted language is occurring.
Indirect quotations are not enclosed in quotation marks. These quotations report what someone has said, but are not exact, original language.
- The Vice-president said that he wished he’d never have run for office.
- Miss Kennedy told her students to sit quietly during story time.