The use of quotation marks is usually considered to be straightforward: they typically indicate quoted material, dialogue and, in some cases, composition titles. Still, you can encounter tricky situations, so let’s look at some issues that might arise.
When quoted conversation or dialogue for a single speaker runs on for more than one paragraph, place quotation marks at the beginning of each new paragraph but only at the end of the last paragraph of conversation. The Associated Press Stylebook has an exception: if the quote in the introductory paragraph is an incomplete sentence, use close-quotes marks at the end of that paragraph.
If you’re quoting poetry or a passage of prose, shorter quotations are run in with the text and enclosed in quotation marks. However, if the quote is longer, (such as 10 lines or more according to the Chicago Manual of Style), set it off from the rest of your copy as an indented block and only use quotation marks if they appear in the original source material. However, the CMS cautions that it is sometimes better to treat long quoted passages, even those that are more than 10 lines, as run-in quotes; it’s a matter of judgment.
If you’re writing a quote within a quote, use double quotation marks for the first or main quote and single quotation marks for the quote within the first quote.
Example: Alice said, “Only after the incident did Henry say ‘I advise caution.'”
Please note that in Britain, it’s the reverse: single quote marks first and double quote marks next.
Titles of Written/Broadcast Pieces
When citing sources, double quotation marks are often used to indicate a minor title (such as an article) appearing in a longer work (such as a magazine or journal), the title of which would be italicized or underlined.
Example: Doe, J. “Marketing your widget.” Widgets Daily
Alternatively, you can use single quotation marks for the minor title and enclose the longer work in double quotation marks.
Example: Doe, J. ‘Marketing your widget.’ “Widgets Daily”
In AP style, quotation marks are used to indicate the titles of the following items within the body of your copy:
- Short stories
- Songs and opera
- Episodes of a radio or television series
- Articles in periodicals
- Subdivisions of books
- Computer games
- Lectures and speeches
- Works of art
Quotation marks are not needed for software titles such as Windows, the Bible, and the names of reference catalogs such as directories, handbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.
Irony, Unfamiliar Terms and Nicknames
Quotation marks can also indicate that a word or phrase is being used in a special or ironic sense. In addition, the AP stylebook stipulates that an unfamiliar term may be enclosed within quotation marks for the first reference. The stylebook also states that quotation marks should be used for a nickname that is inserted into the identification of an individual.
Edwin Eugene“Buzz” Aldrin or
Aldrin was commonly known as“Buzz.”
Combining with Other Punctuation Marks
In American English, periods and commas are always placed inside quotation marks while colons and semicolons are always placed outside. Placement of question marks, exclamation marks and dashes depend on the “logic” of the sentence. That is, if they’re part of the quote, they go inside the marks; otherwise they are placed outside.
Britain and some other countries apply the same logic guiding the location of question marks and exclamation marks to the placement of periods and commas. So, if you have an assignment with a foreign client or publication, take some time to double-check their punctuation rules.