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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
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.
- 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."
Periods and commas always go within the quotation marks.
- "Quotation marks are easy," Johnny said.
- Debbie dislikes "using quotation marks incorrectly."
- The sign changed from "Walk," to "Don't Walk," to "Walk" again.
- "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.
Other punctuation marks follow logic. If a question is a direct quote, the question mark will go inside the quotation marks, and so on.
- She asked, "Will you study quotation marks today?"
- Do you agree with me when I say "Grammar is important"?
Double quotation marks (" ") are used to indicate a direct quote.
- 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.
- "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.
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.
- "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."
- 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]."
Quotation Mark Quiz
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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."
"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
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