Using Quotation MarksWriter's Web
(printable version here)

To enclose a direct quotation (a person's exact words) but not indirect quotations:

ex. John said, "The ref made a good call that time." (direct quotation)

John said that the referee made a good call that time. (indirect quotation)

For titles of works that are published within other works (see our page Titles: Underline or Quotations? for a complete explanation)

ex. We read the short story "Looking for Jake" in China Miéville's anthology of the same name, Looking for Jake.

With other punctuation marks:

Commas and periods are always placed inside the closing quotation marks.

ex. "As a matter of fact," I added, "we will end class early today."

Semicolons and colons are always placed outside the closing quotation marks, unless they are part of the direct quotation.

ex. Jim promised, "I will cut the grass, dad"; however, that was three weeks ago.

ex. You must admit one thing about "Honest Jim": he keeps his promises, eventually.

Question marks and exclamation points are placed inside the closing quotation marks if they belong with the quotation, otherwise they are placed outside.

ex. "Who is coming to the party?" my sister asked.

ex. Once again he claims, "I am an honest politician"!

Avoid common misuses of quotation marks:

Overusing them with slang terms:

ex. Bob said the new car was "cool" and that he would not be a "slacker" about getting to work on time. (Do you need the slang? If so, why not quote Bob? Dialogue adds immediacy to writing).

As a smokescreen to cover up cliches and weak expressions in writing:

ex. Issac Newton was "busy as a bee" all of the time. (Use a fresh expression instead).

 

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