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Where Do Quotation Marks Belong?

Updated on May 14, 2014

American Use: How to Place Quotation Marks

When someone is speaking, we enclose their words in quotes.
When someone is speaking, we enclose their words in quotes. | Source

Different Rules for Different Countries

That's right. It all depends on where you went to school, where you live or from where you are writing. Some websites go so far as to say it depends on where you want to market and distribute your material.

If you were educated in the United States, there is one set of rules.

If you have had the benefit of a British education (UK, Canada, British territories), there is a different set of rules.

Punctuation can be very tricky. What looks right on paper can look very different on a computer screen.

Periods and commas are the biggest misplaced punctuation in writing. Next in line comes the question mark and exclamation marks.

So, just where do those quotation marks go?

Punctuation with Quotation Marks

It's not all about talking!

American version:

Most people know that quotation marks were used for conversation or dialogue. When you want to show what someone said, you would place the words inside quotation marks like this:

  • Molly said, "I'm going to the store."

But quotation marks are not all about talking.

Quotation marks are also used as emphasis, to set words apart from the rest of the sentence.

  • In the process of boarding the plane, Mark thought he had "lost" his ticket. The flight attendant found it sticking out of his carry-on luggage. Thank goodness it wasn't really "lost."

But as you read on, you'll see that the rules change a little bit in regard to using quotations for emphasis.


Placement of Quotation Marks

Quotation Marks
Quotation Marks | Source

Will that be a single or a double?

Single and double quotation marks - This applies to both American and British versions. The only exception is the placement of the period at the end of the sentence.

We use quotation marks like this " __" to enclose conversation.

Molly said, "I'm taking a class at the university."

#

We use single quotation marks like this ' __' to emphasize something, to cite a title, or to set apart speech within the conversation.

Molly said, "I'm taking 'Creative Writing 101' at the university."

British version

Source

Dialogue rule (both versions)

The first letter of the first word inside your quotations when it is someone speaking is always capitalized.

He said, "You know the answer to the question." (American - period inside the quotation mark)

He said, "You know the answer to the question". (British - period after the quotation mark)

Single Quotation Within a Quotation

Specify (British Version)

When you want to name (specify) something within your sentence but it is not a direct quote, it looks like this:

The machine operates on a "hydraulic" system.

The "gold" market is different from the "silver" market.

Single Quote (British Version)

The British have been known to use the single version of quotation marks to identify something within your sentence, like this:

The machine operates on a 'hydraulic' system.

The 'gold' market is different from the 'silver' market.

Both are acceptable.

Title (British Version)

When you want to give the title to something in your sentence, the British version looks like this:

"My favorite poem is 'The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner' which I learned in the third grade".

The title is placed in single quotes when someone is identifying it by name. The period goes outside the quotation marks.

Emphasis Within a Quotation (British Version)

When you want to emphasize something that someone says or show a status, the British version looks like this:

The teacher asked, "Is Leonard 'present' today"?

'present' indicates a status. Question mark is placed outside quotation marks.

Dialogue (British Version)

The British writer uses quotation marks outside of other punctuation for dialogue, like this:

Period:

Molly said, "I'm going to the store, Mom". (period outside quotation marks)

#

Comma:

"I'm going to the store, Mom", Molly said. (comma outside quotation marks)

#

Question:

"Do you have any idea where we turn off this road"? Molly asked. (question mark outside quotation marks)

#

Exclamation Point:

"Oh, don't be silly"! (exclamation point outside quotation marks)

Grunkle Stan makes quote marks with his fingers. hmmm

Disney's character: Grunkle Stan
Disney's character: Grunkle Stan | Source

Talking with your fingers

Do you ever make "quote marks" with your fingers when you are speaking? lol

See results

Title (American Version)

When you want to give the title to something in your sentence, the American version looks like this:

"My favorite poem is 'The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner' which I learned in the third grade".

The title is placed in single quotes when someone is identifying it by name. The period goes outside the quotation marks.

Direct and Indirect Quotes (American Version)

Direct quotes are exactly what someone says. Quotation marks are placed like this:

Joe said to his mother on the other end of the phone, "Mom, I am going to be late for dinner."

The salesman said, "The warranty on this product is one year."

Indirect Quotes (American Version)

Indirect quotes are repeating what someone says. No quotation marks are used.

Joe said he is going to be late for dinner.

The salesman told me the warranty is for one year.

American version

This next video titled "Quotation Marks" right below this text reminds me of the "Hooked on Phonics" videos that my kids used to watch on Schoolhouse Rock (American programming). They used any gimmick they could to get kids to watch and learn. This video has a Twilight backdrop and music playing in the background. It was made 4 years ago and doesn't have all that many views.

But it hits the mark! That's why I chose to include it here.

What is your preference?

Which form of quotation mark usage do you prefer to use?

See results

Quotations and Punctuation

My First Hub!

I hope this helps to demystify the American and British usage of quotation marks.

Oh, and this is my first hub on my own account. I am appreciative of anyone who clicks to follow me and of course, your comments too.

© Rachael O'Halloran. March 7, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permission from the author. Use the following link to refer to this article. Do Not Copy. TYVM


http://rachaelohalloran.hubpages.com/hub/Where-Do-Quotation-Marks-Belong

© 2014 Rachael O'Halloran

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  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    #Glenn Stok

    Yes, I'll bet the British see more than just grammar usage as strange with the Americans! lol Thank you for your comment, compliment, and the nice welcome :)

    Rachael

  • Glenn Stok profile image

    Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

    It's crazy how different these rules are from British too American usage. I knew about the period being inside the quotes for American and outside for British. But I didn't know the same applies to question marks and exclamation marks. Those look so strange to me when placed outside the quotes, as shown in your examples. But I'm sure that British writers will see the American usage as strange.

    Well done Hub with great examples, Rachael. Welcome to HubPages.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    #justmesuzanne - LOL

    Some teachers and university websites contend there is much overuse and misuse in punctuation and grammar, but again it depends on where one lives or was educated.

    What may seem a misuse to us is an acceptable practice in other countries. In some countries they don't even use quotation marks to indicate dialogue. When someone is speaking, they just start a new sentence or paragraph, and add a {he said or she said} at the end to offset it from the rest of the text.

    BTW, I wasn't going to call attention to my error but in my example above:

    In the process of boarding the plane, Mark thought he had "lost" his ticket. The flight attendant found it sticking out of his carry-on luggage. Thank goodness it wasn't really "lost."

    I made the error of adding

    Thank goodness it wasn't really "lost."

    which implied that my example was dialogue, when in fact it was third person narrative. By adding on that last sentence, I misrepresented my own example. I noticed it two days later, and by that time, I had a few comments and didn't feel right changing my article to delete that part of the example.

    And I agree with you about the ways signage is quoted, but sometimes have found myself guilty of the same error in punctuation and have to catch myself when proofreading. lol

    Capitalization should be enough emphasis; signage (or other forms of display) certainly does not need quotation marks as well, but some writers are just in the habit.

    Thank you again,

    Rachael

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 3 years ago from Texas

    My pleasure! I was thinking about this while I was working outside this afternoon and thought about all the times I've seen signs that misuse quotation marks. For example, "FRESH" Fish. This would actually mean that they SAY the fish is fresh, but it really isn't! LOL! :D

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    #justmesuzanne

    Thank you for your observation, for following me back and for your fan mail. I hope to expand the direction of my articles into quite a few different topics to keep readers interested.

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 3 years ago from Texas

    Good information; however, in this instance:

    In the process of boarding the plane, Mark thought he had "lost" his ticket. The flight attendant found it sticking out of his carry-on luggage. Thank goodness it wasn't really "lost."

    the quotation marks are not just put there to "set words apart" from the rest of the sentence. This is a quote. Mark is understood to have said he "lost" his ticket. He called it "lost" but it wasn't really lost. It was really only misplaced. In this instance the quotation marks are used to point out that the person said something that wasn't really the case. You would also use quotation marks in this way in the event of name-calling or a false accusation. Somebody said something that wasn't really true.

    Good information! Voted up and useful! :)

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    #alancaster149 - About being quick - I'm off from work this week, so I can afford to be online more than usual, otherwise it could be 24 hours before I get to sign on!

    Period (sentence) vs point (math) ... Indeed I do get the point. lol

    I am enjoying reading your hubs. However I did notice that you write dialogue using both American and British usage on your STORYLINE hubs, especially:

    British - DRIFT-BESET

    American - CRAFTY-MIKE-HE-HAD-A-BIKE

    You are a very diversified writer and I'm glad to follow you.

    I appreciate the follow back and for your re-visit.

  • alancaster149 profile image

    Alan R Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

    That was quick!

    We use 'point' in percentages as well, but period is used in higher maths, i.e the period table etc. The word 'point' has enough meanings to warrant a dictionary to itself (exaggeration of course, but you get my meaning, I was going to write 'point' but that would be too much repetition).

    By the way my own fan mail got 'zapped' in the middle of my writing it. I was going to say something like 'worth following' in different words.

    TTFN

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    #Eiddwen, Thank you Eddy for reading and voting. By the way, I don't always leave a comment, but I want to tell you I am enjoying your hubs immensely, especially the pictures you post using pizap. I also use the program, but I'm not nearly as proficient in creating multilayers as you. I followed you under awordlover's account (which I moderate since her death) and when I started my own account, I went down her list to follow those I enjoyed reading. I thank you for following back and for your fan mail.

    Rachael

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    #alancaster149 - thank you for your detailed comment.

    The wording of your comment proves exactly what this article is trying to say. The British have certain words they use to name the particular punctuation. Many Americans view those words differently because they have a different meaning for us.

    For Example: Your comment says: Late on you put 'gold' and 'silver' between parentheses.

    For the record, I was following the protocol from Oxford when I wrote this article.

    But more importantly, I would like to address meanings of words used in both versions.

    The word 'parentheses' has a totally different meaning in the American version of punctuation.

    ( ) are parentheses in the US.

    " " are quotations.

    What we call 'quotations' the British call 'brackets' or 'parentheses.'

    I find the word 'period' for use in mathematics interesting. In the US we use the word 'point.'

    For example in speech it would be spoken in conversation as such: She is 99 point 9 percent sure of her answer.

    In the written form, it would be shown as such: She is 99.9% sure of her answer.

    It depends on which side of the pond you live, where you were educated, and what your accepted practice is. No one is wrong, and that is the point of this article. I do appreciate your clarification and am leaving your comment in place for others to benefit as well.

    Thank you so much for your detailed comment. I hope you will find my other hubs less controversial, although I can't promise anything as I look over the list. lol

    Thank you,

    Rachael

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

    A great hub which reinstates what we once knew but have forgotten over the years. Voted up and looking forward to many more.

    Eddy.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    #bravewarrior - I've seen there is no hard and fast rule for quoting book titles. Lately, when I read reviews in the newspaper or on websites, it seems like anything goes, some don't even use single quotations to set the title apart from the rest of their review. My hub gave the current accepted practices in the publishing world. While their rules are more strict, which is evidenced by editors and proofreaders, many other venues are more lax. As for placement - for the American version, inside the quote. For the British version, outside the quote - this is the accepted practice for the last 100 plus years. I used to mess this up a lot so I got in the habit of remembering it this way.

    I live "inside" the US - hence I put punctuation inside the quote.

    I do not live "outside" the US, hence the British version is always "outside" the quote.

    Thank you for your comment, and for following me back.

    Rachael

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    #Thomas Swan, that has always been a pet peeve for me. I agree it looks like the speaker actually said those words when they do that. In the US when we do it, it usually does mean it is quoted dialogue. And I also agree when people (anyone) uses this form of quotation, it is for ulterior motives, i.e. to convince people of direct quote. Thank you for your comment and the follow back.

  • alancaster149 profile image

    Alan R Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

    I have a bone to pick.

    Late on you put 'gold' and 'silver' between parentheses. We don't normally do that unless gold and silver are euphemisms for something else, or they're under query, as in:

    'You say you're digging for gold. What kind of 'gold' do you expect to find in your back yard?'

    If gold or silver are being traded they don't appear between parentheses.

    The " mark is used here for "quotations" within text. The view is also that the parentheses either side of dialogue are not the end, the full stop is.

    The word 'period' is used in mathematics here, but no-one's neck would be stretched for using it out of context.

    Have a nice day now.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

    Very informative hub, Rachael. This cleared up the use of quotation marks with regard to songs, chapters, poems and short stories. I wonder why the quote marks don't apply to book titles. Hmmm. Interesting. I was also unaware that the comma goes inside the quote - I've been putting it outside.

    Thanks for clearing this up!

  • Thomas Swan profile image

    Thomas Swan 3 years ago from New Zealand

    A useful set of rules! I have become frustrated recently by the BBC's use of single quotation marks to provide emphasis. They put the marks around the contentious opinions of their journalists to make it seem like the quoted section is an actual quote from the person being talked about. For example, you might see a story like: Putin `hates Ukrainians', which makes it look like he actually said he hates them. The BBC uses the ambiguity to spread propaganda on behalf of the British government.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    Thank you Perspycacious. I appreciate your comment and kindness.

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    Perspycacious 3 years ago

    A fine first read for my newest follower's piece. Informative, instructive, and interesting indeed.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    Hi teaches12345, thank you for your comment and your supportive fan mail. I am hoping to provide a variety of topics, but this one just irked me when I was corrected by another writer while moderating awordlover's account. When I opened my own account, I wanted to put this to rest. I was very surprised when I did my research to learn that everyone is right. It just depends on where and what you were taught. TYVM for following me back.

    Rachael

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

    I think I sometimes use the British form without knowing it! Great tips on using quotation marks when writing. I appreciate the lesson.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    I did. It's The Little Things. I hope to have time to read more this week.

    https://hubpages.com/literature/Its-the-Little-Thi...

  • WillStarr profile image

    WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    " I visited some of your stories this week and I look forward to reading more of your work as my time allows."

    Feel free to comment.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    WillStarr,

    Thank you for reading and for voting up. I visited some of your stories this week and I look forward to reading more of your work as my time allows.

    R.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    tsmog,

    Hello Tim, You are not alone. So many writers are being corrected for writing this way and the fact is, both are acceptable. It is just that the American version is preferred by publishers and readers alike. I am glad you are now at ease and that you found my hub noteworthy. Thank you for visiting, and for leaving a comment. I have to get to work on more hubs so ya'll won't think I only write on "English" and "grammar" topics. lol

  • WillStarr profile image

    WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    Very informative, Rachael! Voted up.

  • tsmog profile image

    Tim Mitchell 3 years ago from Escondido, CA

    I giggle + giggle now as you have enlightened me with 'why'. I have received many criticism of the usage of punctuation especially when first self-publishing at writing sites. I accepted and acknowledged I must be wrong, yet it rubbed me wrong to change the style I used feeling so uncomfortable. Now I realize most of the authors I studied while reading their works were UK orientated.

    Thank you for providing a very useful article of explanation presenting understanding and maybe a little forgiveness too of self and others. I encourage others to read what is shared here especially when deciding the marketplace for their own written works.

    tim

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    DDE, thank you for your comment and following me.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Informative and well explained on the use of exclamation marks. I look forward to reading more hubs from you.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    Thank you Vellur and also for following me :)

  • Vellur profile image

    Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

    Very useful, informative and clearly explained. Thank you for sharing this hub.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    Thank you bethperry :)

  • bethperry profile image

    Beth Perry 3 years ago from Tennesee

    Very useful Hub, Rachael!

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
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    Rachael O'Halloran 3 years ago from United States

    LOL FlourishAnyway. The American version is more widely used in writing and publishing. Per my research, it is actually preferred. You'd be amazed at how many British are actually corrected by Americans for the way they do it! I hope this hub clears it all up - they are both correct.

    Thanks for reading my first hub and being my first comment!

    Rachael

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

    Now I just learned something. I never knew the British had different rules for this, too! We Americans just had to be different, huh? Of course, just like driving, I prefer our way LOL.