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Writing Tips: How to Use Quotation Marks

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I'm a dental hygienist, pyrography artist, avid gardener, writer, vegetarian, world traveler, and many other things!

writing-tips-how-to-use-quotation-marks

Let me start out by reminding all writers how important it is to get quotes correct in your writing.

Back when newspapers were more popular we'd see silly quotes and headlines all the time. In this electronic environment we can, for the most part, go back to fix misquotes; however, it's best to get them right the first time!

  • "For rent: 6-room hated apartment."
  • "Officer convicted of accepting bride."
  • "3-year old teacher needed for pre-school. Experience preferred."
  • Dinner special: "Turkey $2.35; Chicken or Beef $2.25; Children $2.00"
  • "No matter what your topcoat is made of, this miracle spray will make it really repellent."
  • Auto repair service. Free pickup and delivery. "Try us once, you'll never go anywhere again."
  • "The ladies of the Merry Oldsters enjoyed a swap social on Friday evening. Everybody brought along something they no longer needed. Many ladies brought their husbands with them." -- Pennsylvania Post
  • "Cynthia Bertross, the celebrated soprano, was involved in a serious road accident last month. We are happy to report that she was able to appear this evening in four pieces." -- Worthing Gazette
This impostor must be stopped!

This impostor must be stopped!

When Not to Use Quotation Marks

It's super common for folks to use quotation marks to add "emphasis." Little do they know, however, that what that actually does is throw whatever they're saying into question. Unless it's a quote, putting something into quotation marks is equivalent to *wink-wink.*

What it says:

  • Beware of "Dog"
  • "Jesus" is Coming
  • "Restrooms" Closed
  • Employees Must "Wash Hands"
  • Fireworks "You Can Trust" Sold Here

What it means:

  • The dog is perhaps just a mean kitty.
  • Someone pretending to be Jesus is coming.
  • They might pass for restrooms, but they're really not up to scratch.
  • Employees must pretend to wash their hands.
  • You can't trust these fireworks to not explode your face off.

Solutions:

  • If you want to add emphasis to something, either boldface or italicize the word or phrase. Putting non-quotes into quotation marks merely emphasizes the fact that you're "kidding."
Only people who understand grammar will be spared!

Only people who understand grammar will be spared!

Proper Usage

Periods and commas always go within the quotation marks.

Correct:

  • "Quotation marks are easy," Johnny said.
  • Debbie dislikes "using quotation marks incorrectly."
  • The sign changed from "Walk," to "Don't Walk," to "Walk" again.

Incorrect:

  • "Never ever do this", Kate said.
  • "You're improving the planet by using correct grammar".
  • The sign changed from "Walk", to "Don't Walk", to "Walk" again.
Scroll to Continue


Other punctuation marks follow logic. If a question is a direct quote, the question mark will go inside the quotation marks, and so on.

Examples:

  • She asked, "Will you study quotation marks today?"
  • Do you agree with me when I say "Grammar is important"?
Are they actually holes in the ground or what?

Are they actually holes in the ground or what?

Direct Quotes

Double quotation marks (" ") are used to indicate a direct quote.

Examples:

  • Margaret said, "I envy those who use quotation marks correctly."
  • The hub author said quotations "are not for emphasis."
  • "I can't wait to learn about quotation marks!" the readers exclaimed.


After introducing a quote, as in the first example above, there is a comma after the name and before the quote. When a quote comes first, then the person who said it, there's a comma following the quote and before the person's name.

Examples:

  • "You'll get it," he said, "if you stick with it and practice."
  • In the end, she said, "Praise be to the grammatically inclined!"
  • "You deserve a pat on the back for using quotation marks properly," said Peter.
Beware the infamous attack cat!  Rawwrrr!

Beware the infamous attack cat! Rawwrrr!

Quotes Within Quotes

Sometimes we'll quote someone who is quoting something or someone else. In this case we'll have two levels of quotation marks. First, double quotation marks (" ") will be on the outside. Second, single quotation marks (' ') will be around the quote within the quote.

Examples:

  • "Kelly said, 'Kate told me I was using quotation marks correctly.'"
  • Donny said, "He said, 'Hurry up.'"

Keep in mind:

  • Don't forget to end both quotes with the proper quotation marks.
  • You may have both single and double quotation marks at the end: ('")

Bad Grammar Makes Me [SIC]

When quoting something that's spelled incorrectly or has incorrect grammar, we place brackets with the word sic inside to indicate that we are not to blame for the mistakes. In effect we're saying, "This is the way the material was presented to me, verbatim."

Examples:

  • He wrote, "I would rather watch TV then [sic] learn how to write."
  • Lots of people, she said, "Need to learn how to use proper grammer [sic]."
What the hell, just cut it when you feel like it.

What the hell, just cut it when you feel like it.

Quotation Mark Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which sentence uses quotation marks Correctly?
    • She said 'The end of the lesson is upon us!'
    • Tony said, "Great job learning about quotation marks today!"
  2. Which quotation marks are used for quotes within quotes?
    • Single quotation marks (' ')
    • Double quotation marks (" ")
  3. Which sentence uses quotation marks Incorrectly?
    • "You deserve a gold star for your efforts," said Peter.
    • "You're going to ace this quiz", Kate said.
  4. We always use quotation marks to indicate emphasis.
    • True
    • False

Answer Key

  1. Tony said, "Great job learning about quotation marks today!"
  2. Single quotation marks (' ')
  3. "You're going to ace this quiz", Kate said.
  4. False

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 1 correct answer: Go Back And Read This Hub Again! :)

If you got 2 correct answers: You're Doing Okay, Stick With It! :)

If you got 3 correct answers: You're Well On Your Way To Quotation Mark Genius! :)

If you got 4 correct answers: You're The Master Chief Of Quotation Marks! Wooot! :)

Block Quotes

Do not use quotation marks for passages more than four lines in length. For longer passages, use block quotes. In HubPages, the button for block quotes looks like a double quotation mark. It's located on the left of the edit box that says "Paragraph."

Incorrect:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." -- Charles Dickens

Correct:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. -- Charles Dickens

writing-tips-how-to-use-quotation-marks

© 2011 Kate P

Comments

Michele Kelsey from Edmond, Oklahoma on July 23, 2013:

This is a great Hubpage. I am writing a series on tweaking HubPages. I've included some grammar points, but I did not really touch on this subject. Could I add a link to this website to bring you traffic? Michele

daisynicolas from Alaska on February 14, 2012:

We need to be reminded on PROPER USE all the time. Good pointers and good examples.

Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on January 07, 2012:

Thanks for the comments! I'm glad I could help. :)

VendettaVixen from Ireland on December 10, 2011:

Great! I've always been confused about whether to place the punctuation inside or outside the quotation. This bothers me, as I'm something of a grammer freak.

Now I know.

Thanks bunches!

family2010 on November 07, 2011:

Very interesting and educational hub.

Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on November 07, 2011:

Hi guys, thanks for the amazing feedback! I have a confession to make: I do speak in text language when I'm texting! *Gasp!* Sometimes on Facebook, too! I agree that language has gone downhill, but my excuse is I know the difference! :)

@Wanzulfikri, I don't think you saw that question #3 says which sentence is INCORRECT. It is absolutely correct, as you say, to put the comma inside! :)

sasanka7 from Calcutta, India on November 07, 2011:

Beautiful and useful hub.

caitmo1 from Lancashire England on November 07, 2011:

This is a really useful hub, very informative and a useful reminder of correct use of quotation marks.

twodawgs on November 07, 2011:

I bet this article is "prolly" going to get read. ;-)

After so many years of people being encouraged to use poor spelling and grammar (such as for text messages and social network updates), Hubpages and other sites are now miraculously doing what many of us had lost hope of ever doing: creating a new incentive for everyone to start writing well again. And, just in the right place, at the right time, here are teachers like you who are happy to make re-acquainting ourselves with good language fun and easy.

wanzulfikri from Malaysia on November 07, 2011:

I can't understand the answer for the third quiz. If the comma should be after the quote mark then why would your direct quote example show otherwise? "You deserve a pat on the back for using quotation marks properly," said Peter. I'm just confused that's all. Nevertheless, thanks for the great hub on grammar.

tamarindcandy on November 07, 2011:

Way useful. Surprising how many people make these mistakes.

icciev from Kuwait on November 07, 2011:

Hi Kate, this is interesting reading and learning experience. thanks for the time and hard work you spend to share this amazing hub, voted up.

SanneL from Sweden on November 06, 2011:

A much needed hub!

When or when not to use quotation, can be really confusing many times.

I have bookmarked for future reference.

Thank you for a helpful tutorial.:)

Jenna Pope from Southern California on November 06, 2011:

This was great! I must admit that I missed one on your quiz. I am going to bookmark this for future usage!

Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on November 06, 2011:

Wow you guys, I'm just so thankful that these hubs are going over as well as they are. I had no idea whether they'd be seen as useful or just kind of boring, so I'm thrilled they're making a difference already. Thanks so much! I'll keep them coming. :)

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on November 06, 2011:

This is terrific. I notice quotation mark errors all the time. I think the most common may be putting the punctuation outside the quotation marks. ~ voting up and useful ~

Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on November 06, 2011:

Thank you for this contribution. I have bookmarked for future reference. English is tougher than many realize. I know my manuscript will be submitted to an editor. In a sense, I am just learning grammar here at the University of Hubpages. Teachers like yourself, missolive, and others have enhanced the writing I do. I am thankful.

Yet, I have to say, I still have a hankering to spell grammar grammer. I mean my fingers actually twitch trying to get it correct - smile.

Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on November 06, 2011:

Another clear and helpful tutorial. The quality of written English around here should be rising. :)

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on November 06, 2011:

PERFECTION! What an amazing series! Another hub for my bookmark list. You are becoming very popular in my bookmarks these days :)

Great job and thank you for the bad quotes. I was laughing hysterically at a few of them.

Voted up - useful - awesome!

Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on November 06, 2011:

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this tutorial. I struggle with proper placement of quotations and this will be a wonderful reference tool. Voted up and useful...and boookmarked!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on November 06, 2011:

I learn something new every time I read one of your grammar Hubs. Thanks...Quotation punctuations have always been difficult for me. I get really confused!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on November 06, 2011:

Kudos, Faceless39! This is wonderful. As a self-proclaimed "Grammar Geek," I have written several grammar hubs and was planning to write one on the proper use of quotation marks. Don't think I will now, since you have covered everything so well. It drives me CRAZY when people use their fingers to make quotations in the air--and use them incorrectly! Usually, they're trying to make the term they put in quotation marks derogatory. Drives me nuts. Love this hub. Voted up and all the way across. Going to share on my page and look at your other stuff. You may have a new follower. Great stuff here!

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