Rules for Using Single and Double Quotation Marks

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In Brief...

Learn when to use single versus double quotation marks.

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Single Quotation Marks

In American English, the single quotation mark is most commonly used to quote someone who is quoting someone else.

For example: When asked why he preferred to sit while addressing his managers, the CEO said, "I had a professor in college who said, 'Always sit while talking to your managers so they do not feel intimidated.'"

Note that the ending period for this sentence resides inside the quotation marks, not outside.

Double Quotation Marks

The most obvious and common use for double quotation marks is to surround a quote.

Following are other uses for double quotation marks:

  1. Surround the title of a short work like a magazine article or television episode. Italics are generally used for longer works: In the first episode of Madmen, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," viewers first meet characters Peggy Olson, Don Draper, and Pete Campbell.
  2. When using a word or phrase as an ironic comment, place double quotation marks around it: She said she would do it "right away," but I don't believe she meant it.

It is not necessary to use double quotation marks around words you simply want to highlight. Using italics is a better way of highlighting or emphasizing words.

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Author: Janie Sullivan

Janie Sullivan, MBA, MAEd, has been teaching adult learners for over 20 years. She has taught online over 15 years, specializing in writing, communications, and small business applications. Janie directs the Center for Writing Excellence where she offers writing, editing, and formatting services for writers. She has been published in several newspapers and magazines as well as multiple online sites. She teaches communication, business strategy, leadership, and management courses. Janie has published a book "Develop and Deliver an Online Class." This is the third book she has written about writing and teaching online. She also has published a novel and an anthology of short stories.