The Purpose of Quotation Marks

There are a lot of things that are involved in writing. You have to pay attention to plot, characters, wordage, proper word usage and understandable dialogue. You also have to pay attention to where certain ‘marks’ should be placed. Yes, punctuation is very important and can be the reason your book isn’t taking off. Even the misuse of quotation marks can be deadly to a writer. Why should we even care? What does it matter where things quotation marks go? Because your success could depend on it.

Let’s explore that a little bit.

Making It Stand Out

Many people use quotation marks to make something stand out. It doesn't blend in with the rest of the words around them. They want to point out a particular name of a store or something else that is the subject of the conversation. It doesn't matter whether it is written or verbal. Think about how many times you have used or seen someone use their fingers as quotation marks. It is used quite often. Many times writers want to use quotation marks for that. It works though typically you might want to consider using single quotation marks instead. Double quotation marks ( ” ) have special connotations to readers, and you don’t want to confuse them.

Dialogue

The quotation mark is mostly used to denote dialogue. Typically that is what people expect when they see quotation marks.

"Did John go to the store?"

The fact that the quotation marks surround the words tells us that someone is speaking them. Even in this one section of the article, there are so many words, but the quotation marks help the words stand out as not part of the narrative.

The wise move would be to only use them there unless other rules supersede it. So when John speaks, you put the double quotation marks around the words he speaks. Only use them to denote the words he speaks. Do not include in those marks his actions. I've seen some authors say

"Did John go to the story? Peter asked."

Nope. You only use the quotation marks around the actual words spoken.

Titles

There are times when quotation marks can be used in titles. They are not common, but there are allowances for them. And you need to follow the rules for titles very carefully.

First off, do not put quotation marks around your title. You don’t have to. Titles of books don’t require them as it is obvious what they are. They don't belong on the cover, the title page, or anywhere you put the name of your book.

In your manuscript, your title is stated without the use of quotation marks. If you reference the title of your book in a guest post or interview, quotation marks are still not to be used. The title should be italicized then. Never put quotation marks around your book title.

If you are referencing the title of a song, poem, or article anywhere in your writing, you use double quotation marks. Do not italicize as that would denote a novel. The quotation marks tells the reader it is a ‘lesser’ size piece of writing.

If you do need to quote another piece in your title, then we have an acceptable exception for titles. Those can have quotation marks. For example, maybe I write a book titled Analyzing “The Start Spangled Banner” and Its Effects on History. The book is the whole title so I put it in italics, but I also have the title of another piece of writing. That goes in quotation marks. Now the reader knows the title of the book and the other piece of writing it is based on.

Use Them Correctly

You need to use quotation marks for what they were meant to be used for. Keep in mind that punctuation marks are the road signs of the reading world. The eyes could be moving at a very fast pace. Throwing quotation marks in the wrong place can be hazard to the reader. That will cause the reader to stop and have to read sections over again. Want to turn a reader off? That's the way to do it. You want the reader moving on and not having to pause.


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