Quotation marks

Quotation marks are also sometimes known as ‘quotes’, ‘quote marks’, ‘speech marks’ or ‘inverted commas’.

Due to their cleaner (less-cluttered) appearance, single typographer’s quotation marks are preferred to signify a quotation instead of double quote marks. Also curved quote marks are preferred over straight ones. This is a straight quote mark: '. These are curly (typographer’s) quote marks: ‘ ’.

However, an exception can be made anywhere an editor decides it would be inappropriate, unclear or less effective to follow the single quote marks rule and/or the curly quote marks rule, e.g. a comic for the web may work better with double curly quote marks. PowerPoint slides may look better with double curly quote marks. DVD subtitles should use double straight quote marks for clarity.

Quote marks for quotations within quotations

Quotations within quotations are identified by the use of the reverse kind of quote marks (i.e. single vs double). If using single quote marks for quotations, double quote marks should be used for a quotation within a quotation.

The literary critic said, ‘We may call Count Valhaven both “The Valiant One” and the “The Cowardly One”.’).

If there’s another quotation within the second set of quote marks it is necessary to revert again.

Her reply was, ‘No writer here said, “Your editing was ‘over-the-top’.”’.

If you’re putting a paragraph in italics, words that were in italics in the original revert to normal text. For example, if you have an entire paragraph in italics (usually done for design aesthetics) then any titles therein would be put in regular text.

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Use of quotation marks to signify titles

Do not use quotation marks for names of books, magazines, newspapers, films, plays, operas, albums, ships, etc. unless not doing so would make the title unclear. Instead use italics:

I read Fool’s Fate in one night. I love the magazine 2Wheels. The Matrix was a ground-breaking film. I went on The Queen Victoria.
However, the titles of short works like songs, poems, articles, short stories or chapters should be put in quotation marks rather than italics. For example:
The song ‘Billie Jean’ is on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album.

When not to use quotation marks

Indirect quotations introduced by the word ‘that’ do not carry quotation marks.

Correct: The editor said that my work was very well written.
Incorrect: The editor said that ‘my work was very well written’.
Passable: The editor said that my work was ‘very well written’.

Depending on the style guide you’re following, large blocks of quotations, e.g. three lines or more indented in their own paragraph, can have the quotation marks left off.

The Apostle Peter confirmed that the prophetic word proclaimed by the prophets was a work of the Holy Spirit. The book of 1 Peter 1:10–12 says:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.

How to punctuate quotations

Should the comma or full stop be inside the quote mark or outside?
Both American and British English require dialogue to be written in proper sentences inside enclosing quotation marks.

When your quote is part of a larger sentence, however, writers of British (and Australian) English must determine whether the punctuation mark belongs with the quotation or if it is part of the overarching sentence. Here's an example of the latter:

It was the love of art that had drawn us together. I had real ability, the masters said, if only I would ‘restrain my eccentricity and apply myself to the proper canons of taste’, which I often failed to do.

Here's an example of the former:

Did Mary say, ‘The weather will be fine.’?

Where a quotation is only part of a quoted sentence and ends the textual sentence, the quotation mark precedes the punctuation mark.

When I read that, ‘no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit’, I feel sorry for all those who do not get to hear of it.

Where a quotation ends the quoted sentence, and the full stop is part of the original quotation or dialogue, the quotation mark follows the full stop.

Dave replied, ‘Yes, you would at that.’

When should a quotation be followed by a space?
Quotation marks usually only have spaces after them when they have concluded a sentence, are positioned outside a full stop, and are followed by another sentence within the same paragraph.

Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.’ (John 3:5–6)

In the example above you may also notice how to punctuate the source at the end of this quotation—there is no need for another full stop. Please refer to a particular referencing style for exactly how citations and sources should be written and formatted. Also see Referencing.

Where the footnote reference mark blends with (is too close to) the quotation character they should be separated by a space.

in the round.’²
in the round.’ ²

How to signify errors in quotations

When there is an obvious misspelling in original matter being quoted, the word ‘sic’ (meaning ‘thus’, set in italics, if possible) may be enclosed in square brackets following the misspelt word. This will show that the error was in the original.

Baltico wrote that the essence of humanity was ‘a wholley [sic] spiritual phenomenon’.

Quotation marks

It is important to use the correct quotation marks in your writing or typesetting work as there are different marks for different purposes. In American English the double quotation mark is preferred for dialogue, whereas in Australia we prefer to use singles.

Quotation Marks Info Graphic - apostrophe, inverted commas, speech marks, curly quotes, straight quotes

Depending on what software and fonts you are using, typing the keyboard button for quotation marks will result in either straight or curly quotes. Pay attention to what type of quotation marks appear and think about what they should be in your final publication. If you are using Microsoft Word, typing the quote marks on your keyboard will automatically switch to the correct (curly) quote marks, unless you do not have your version of Word set up to do this.

You can easily change all of your quote marks from straight to curly by using Find and Replace in Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign.

Read more about the correct symbols for feet and inches (prime) on Science.


Emphasis within a quotation should be identified by the inclusion of the expression ‘emphasis added’ where the emphasis had been added by the copyist. When the emphasis had been the work of the original author, the expression ‘emphasis in the original’ may be used. The expression, in the same font as the quotation, shall be encapsulated inside square brackets inside the quotation.

Usher wrote that the value of editing was ‘undeniably connected with the professionalism of an organisation [emphasis added]’.

Emphasising text should be done with bold or italics, not all capitals or quote marks.

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