The Groupies are constantly inundated by questions from our friends, colleagues and clients about all things spelling- and grammar-related. Correct use of quotation marks is a perennial point of confusion, so we’ve created this handy guide to help you settle those nagging questions once and for all.
Double quotation marks
Stand-alone direct speech
Use double quote marks to enclose direct quotes (what someone actually said). When the quote stands alone – rather than being part of a broader sentence – the final punctuation goes inside the closing quotation marks.
Example: “Editors need to be alert and focused at all times.”
Example: “I think it’s time for another coffee.”
Full quotes within full sentences
When a sentence has a full direct quote within it, always start the quote with a capital letter and introduce it with a comma. Because the quote is only part of the sentence enclosing it, any closing punctuation for the sentence goes outside the closing quotation mark – unless the quote is at the end of the sentence and finished with a question mark or exclamation mark.
Example: She stood up from her desk and said, “Sure, I’ll have one too”.
Example: Someone else piped up and shouted, “Make it a strong latté for me!”
Example: One Groupie looked surprised and said, “Didn’t you just have one half an hour ago?”
Fragmented quotes within sentences
When using partial quotes (rather than quoting a full sentence), you do not need to introduce the quote with a comma or a capital letter, and the closing punctuation goes outside the final quote marks.
Example: Someone once said that “a cup of tea would suffice” but I can’t remember who.
Single quotation marks
If a phrase or a word is uncommon or you are highlighting it to the reader for a particular reason – for example, as a neologism or a conscious use of jargon – use single quotation marks. Any punctuation sits outside single quotation marks.
Example: We tend to notice that writing gets more ‘jargonified’ halfway through the afternoon.
Example: We advocate ‘self-caffeination’; we believe it enhances our productivity.
Quotes within quotes
If you are quoting something within a quote (this is called a ‘meta quote’), use single quotation marks.
Example: “She told me it was ‘a double-espresso kind of morning’ so things must be busy.”
We understand that quotation marks can be difficult, and there’s always the fear of getting the rules mixed up. The next time you find yourself wondering what to do with those tricky single and double quotation marks, just grab ‘a cup of Joe’ and check this helpful guide. And if that doesn’t clear things up, you can always call or drop us a line!
If you have a question about quotation marks that you’ve always wanted to ask, contact Editor & Proofreader Olivia McDowell.