Quotation marks in English. Rules and examples

When to Use Quotation Marks ("") | Rules & Examples

The use of quotation marks in English

What are quotation marks in English

Quotation marks are punctuation marks used in English to separate direct speech, sayings, to indicate quotations, dialogues, titles of books, articles, musical pieces, and other information that needs to be highlighted or emphasized in the text or to set off text that requires special attention. They are an essential tool in writing, helping the reader distinguish between direct text and quotations or phrases spoken by a specific person or character. For example:

  • Quotations: Shakespeare wrote: “To be, or not to be, that is the question.”
  • Dialogues: She asked, “How are you?”
  • Titles of Works: I enjoy reading “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.”

The use of quotation marks is an important grammar rule that helps maintain clarity in the text and separate quoted material from the main context.

Types of quotation marks in English

Double Quotation Marks (” “)

Double quotation marks are most commonly used to indicate direct speech or titles (of books, movies, songs, etc.) and other text highlights in your writing. They are standard in many American publications and are used to mark direct statements by characters in dialogues.

Examples of using double quotation marks:

  • He replied, “I’ll come at six o’clock.”

Single Quotation Marks (‘ ‘)

Single quotation marks are used to highlight a part of the text that is quoted within another quotation or to highlight slang expressions. They are more common in British English and other European variants of the language.

Examples of using single quotation marks:

  • He shouted, “Did she really say ‘I’m leaving now’ when she left?”
  • She said, ‘This is his “best decision”.’

Types of quotation marks by writing style

When reading various articles, books, or technical reports, we often encounter different types of quotation marks. To learn English, it is important to understand the difference between straight quotes and curly quotes, as well as when to use them.

Straight Quotes (straight quot) are two vertical punctuation marks typically located next to the Esc key on the keyboard. There are straight single quotes (‘) and straight double quotes (“).

Curly Quotes (curly quotes) are punctuation marks used to create high-quality typography. There are four types of curly quotes: opening single quotes (‘), closing single quotes (‘), opening double quotes (“), and closing double quotes (“).

When learning English, it is important to know that straight quotes are often used in electronic texts and documentation, while curly quotes are considered more formal and are often found in printed publications and literature. Using curly quotes can add a professional appearance and readability to the text.

Table of Different Quotation Mark Styles in English

Quotation MarkNameOften used forWindows code Mac codeHTML code
Straight single quoteHighlighting items in a list or indicating possession in Englishalt 0039
Straight double quoteQuoting direct speech and titles in American Englishalt 0034
Opening single quoteFor the start of a quotation in British Englishalt 0145option + ]
Closing single quoteFor the end of a quotation or apostrophealt 0146option + shift + ]
Opening double quoteFor the start of a quotation in British Englishalt 0147option + [
Closing double quoteFor the end of a quotation in British Englishalt 0148option + shift + [

Rules for using quotation marks

Direct speech

When using direct speech, the text spoken by the character is placed in quotation marks.

  • Example: She said, “I’m coming soon.”


If you need to indicate that the text was taken from another source, use quotation marks.

  • Example: According to the article, “Quotation marks have several usage rules.”

Additional information for quotations and direct speech

Complete sentence

If the quoted material is a complete sentence, the first letter of the sentence should be capitalized:

  • She exclaimed, “I can’t believe it’s already Friday!”

Fragment or phrase

If the quoted material is a fragment or phrase, the first letter should not be capitalized:

  • The phrase “practice makes perfect” is often used in motivational speeches.

Adding words for explanation

If the original quotation is unclear or ambiguous, you can add words in square brackets to clarify the meaning:

  • He mentioned, “They are planning a surprise party for him [Mark].”

Titles of works

Use quotation marks to indicate the titles of works, such as articles, books, songs, or individual episodes of TV shows.

  • Example: My favorite episode is “The One with the Blackout.”
  • Example: Have you read “To Kill a Mockingbird”?
  • Example: She loves the song “Yesterday” by The Beatles.

Alternative meanings or irony

Quotation marks can be used to emphasize an alternative meaning or ironic use of words.

  • Example: The “special” soup of the day was interesting.

Other cases

In more technical or academic writing, quotation marks may be used to highlight terms or concepts being used in a special sense.

Double or single quotation marks

In American style writing, double quotation marks are typically used, while British style often uses single quotation marks. However, this rule may vary depending on the publication style or personal preference.

Rules for Quotation Marks with Other Punctuation Marks

Comma and period (American English)

The comma and period are always placed inside the quotation marks.

  • Example: “I’m tired,” she explained.

Comma and period (British English)

The comma and period can be placed outside the quotation marks if they are not part of the quoted text.

  • Example: He described the situation as “unbelievable”, which was quite an understatement.

Semicolon and colon

These are placed outside the quotation marks.

  • Example: She said it was “ridiculous”; he agreed silently.

Placement of periods and commas with quotation marks

The period and comma are placed inside the quotation marks if they belong to the quoted text:

  • Example: She said, “I’ll be there.”
  • Example: The title of the book is “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Question marks and exclamation points

Question marks and exclamation points can be placed either inside or outside the quotation marks, depending on which part of the sentence they belong to:

  • Example: “What are you doing?” she asked.
  • Example: He exclaimed, “Wow!”

Common questions about quotation marks

  1. When should quotation marks be used?
    • Quotation marks are used to indicate direct speech, quotations, titles of works, or to give special meaning to words.
    • Example: “To be, or not to be,” is one of the most famous lines in English literature.
  2. Can single quotation marks be used instead of double quotation marks?
    • Yes, especially in British English, single quotation marks are often used for quoting, while double quotation marks are used for quoting within a quotation.
    • Example: ‘The term “irony” is often misunderstood,’ he noted.
  3. Do common phrases or proverbs need to be enclosed in quotation marks?
    • Generally, quotation marks are not used for common phrases or proverbs, unless you want to give them a special meaning or irony.
    • Example: Time heals all wounds – no quotation marks needed here.
  4. How should quotation marks be used when writing dialogues?
    • Each line of dialogue starts on a new line and is enclosed in quotation marks. The comma or other punctuation mark is placed before the closing quotation marks if it is followed by a dialogue tag (e.g., he said).
    • Example: “Where are you going?” he asked. “I’m heading to the store,” she replied.
  5. Can quotation marks be used to highlight slang or irony?
    • Yes, quotation marks can be used to highlight slang, irony, or non-standard usage of a word:
    • Example: He was “working” on his project, which actually meant playing video games.

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