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Quotation Marks


Quotation Marks

Quotation Marks

1. Use quotation marks to enclose a direct quotation—a person’s exact words.

When you write exactly what a person says, you are directly quoting that person. Quotation marks show when that person’s exact words begin and when the words end. The first word of a direct quotation generally begins with a capital letter. Words that indicate the speaker are set off with a comma or commas.

  • My hobby, Joe said, is disk golf. [Joe’s exact words are enclosed in a set of quotation marks.] 
  • The Australian laughed, You ought to try a boomerang. [The Australian’s exact words are enclosed in a set of quotation marks. Notice that the first word of the quoted sentence is capitalized.]

When you write what someone said without using his or her exact words, you are using an indirect quotation. Indirect quotations do not have quotation marks.

  • The historian said that people did not use forks much until the 1700s. [The words people did not use forks much until the 1700s retell what the historian said. They are not the historian’s exact words, so they do not need quotation marks.]

In general, a comma belongs inside the closing quotation marks. A period also belongs inside the quotation marks if the quotation is at the end of the whole sentence.

  • “Your car needs an oil change,” the mechanic advised,“or you could ruin the engine.[A comma tells the reader to switch from quoted words to the rest of the sentence. The comma goes inside the closing quotation mark. The period at the end of the sentence also goes inside the closing quotation mark.]

Question marks and exclamation points generally go inside the quotation marks if they belong to the quoted sentence. When question marks and exclamation points are not part of the quoted sentence, then they belong outside the quotation marks.

  • “What’s wrong with my car?”Curran asked. [The quoted sentence is a question, so the question mark is inside the quotation marks.] 
  • Did the mechanic say,“The oil level is really low”? [The overall sentence is a question about what the mechanic said. The question mark goes outside the quotation marks because it is not part of the quotation.]

2. Use quotation marks to enclose titles (including subtitles) of short works, such as short stories, short poems, essays, articles and other parts of periodicals, songs, episodes of radio and television series, and chapters and other parts of books.

  • The Gift of the Magi [short story] 
  • Harlem [poem]
  • On Liberty [essay] 
  • The New Century[article]

When you use the title of a short work within another quotation, use single quotation marks (‘) for the title.

  • Starla asked, “Don’t you love the song Space Race by Alien Invasion?” [The song title ‘Space Race’ has single quotation marks around it because it is within a quotation.]


Quotation Marks

You may find it easier to remember when to use quotation marks or italics with titles if you keep in mind that long works that use italics, such as books and long musical works, usually stand alone. Short works that use quotation marks, such as chapters and songs, are usually part of some larger work.

  • My favorite song from the album Rubber Soul is “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).”

3. Use quotation marks to enclose slang words, invented words, technical terms, dictionary definitions of words, and any expressions that are unusual in standard English.

  • Hold out your hand so I can pony up your allowance. [Pony up is slang for “pay money owed.”] 
  • We call Tim’s car the Joltswagon. [Joltswagon is an invented term.] 
  • Scud is a sailing term meaning “sail with a strong wind.” [Scud is a technical term in the sailing profession.] 
  • The rancher rounded up the dogies, or orphaned calves. [Dogie is a slang word for a motherless calf.] 
  • Mina needed plenty of time to getdolled up for the prom. [Dolled up is an informal term for “dressed up” in standard English.]
Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎


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