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Quotation Marks - Grammar Errors

Updated on January 16, 2018
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Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about diverse topics, from digital marketing to languages and culture.

Quotes and Quotations

Using quotes is like finding a quibbling twin to mar your writing: you either face-off and make a truce, or he fouls you up and you flub. They’re used for repeating or copying what someone has said or written.

Twins are copies of DNA. They make you see double.

If you act like you’re quoting someone, it also takes two hands to prove your point.

I’m proving my point:

Try Quoting These Guys

What Are They?

People have made nouns, verbs and even hand motions based on the idea of the quote – it can get tricky.

What exactly am I talking about when I am using quotes?

Well, I’m using it incorrectly in the above sentence. Many people do. The word “quote” is short for “quotation.” I have a feeling it’s going to go the way of the “bus”: it used to be called autobus. Now, if someone says that, it sounds like some disease – an auto-immune disease or something or...some kind of succubus. Ew.

A quotation is a noun. “Quote” is a verb. You use quotation marks to quote quotations. (You can quote me on that.)

For now, I’m going to anger the grammar gods (or perhaps incite the anger of my evil twin) and use the word “quote.” Besides, I have to think about how much time I’ll lose trying to write the word “quotation” every time it’s going to appear in this hub.


"At first, I see pictures of a story in my mind. Then creating the story comes from asking questions of myself. I guess you might call it the 'what if - what then' approach to writing and illustration."

— Chris Van Allsburg

When do you use quotation marks?

I know, I know, I just used the whole word: quotation. But when do you hear about “quote marks”?

Those little marks are like a double apostrophe - an apostrophetic twin:

To make things worse, they always appear in doubles: “” (Are they now quadruplets?)

Though they always appear in doubles, sometimes they appear singly-double: ‘’

But why?

The story on the apostrophetic twin (“”) goes like this:

They set off titles to magazine articles, hubs, or episodes on TV shows:

I recently read “Twins” in the National Geographic Magazine. Now, I’m seeing double.

Some would argue, like the MLA, that you’re supposed to italicize the above. That’s okay, too, and is often preferred. But since this is the “quote show,” you can use quotes, too – especially since my sentence is already italicized.

People use them to highlight ironies or other disdainful words, or to show that a word is otherwise special:

“Converse and Donverse” have to be the craziest names for twins that I have ever heard.

They’re also used to show a "word" as an example:

I can never tell the difference between Peter and Paul. So, I just call them “Peterpaul.” That way, I never worry about who is who. “Peterpaul” is very handsome, too.

You can also italicize words to show them as an example. But, since my sentence is an example in italics, quotation marks fit in perfectly.

Now, these quibbling twins shan’t be used to set off ordinary words. Every word can’t be extraordinary:

Eenie and Meenie are “gorgeous.”

Uh, really? Are you being sarcastic? Are they all pimply and unsightly and you’re just trying to be nice? Indeed, twin apostrophes are confusing enough without exaggerating their use. Besides, you make people start questioning the meaning you want to convey. Do you want them to think you're an evil twin? Or, you might start seeing double.

Eenie and Meenie are “gorgeous.”

Words and phrases do exist in the English language with multiple uses. It’s okay to use those quirky twins:

Peterpaul “lit into” me when I called him/them that word. I didn't know which twin he was! Perhaps he’d like it better if I called him “Paulpeter.”

"That's me"...and I quote.
"That's me"...and I quote. | Source

What About Single Quotes

Perhaps Frick got tired of Frack and abandonment ensued. Mila left Milo to fend for himself in the evil world of punctuation.

Not really. The apostrophetic twins live on. But, they have to assert their individuality – at least sometimes.

Tweedle Dee said to his brother, “Tweedle Dum, when did you say ‘I love you’ to Alice?”

A quote within a quote is the biggest reason to use a single mark.


When To Use Them

If you have a mirror handy, you might use it to help you assert the following:

  • Commas and full stops always go inside quotation marks.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, I declare that I am the most beautiful human of them all.”

  • Question marks, exclamation points and dashes go outside of quotation marks, unless those are inherently part of a quotation.

“Mirror, mirror, why won’t you answer me?” she said. Was she sane or "insanely crazy"?

  • Sassy semicolons and Common Colon fall outside of quotation marks:

Ned and Ted said, “we are wearing purple”; they love rain. They began to sing "Purple Rain."


"I write lustily and humorously. It isn't calculated; it's the way I think. I've invented a writing style that expresses who I am."

— Erica Jong

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun


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