Quotation Marks


Quotation marks [ “ ” ] are a form of punctuation most often used to indicate quoted or direct speech. However, in academic writing, quotation marks are also often used to set off the titles of things. Both singular and double quotation marks exist, and they serve very different purposes.


Using Quotation Marks with Quoted or Spoken Language or Titles

Use quotation marks to set off material that represents quoted or spoken language. Consider the examples below.

  • My favourite poem is Robert Frost’s “Design.”
  • What do you think of Robert Frost’s “Design”?
  • I love “Design”; however, my favourite poem was written by Emily Dickinson.

Punctuation around quoted speech or phrases depends on how it fits into the rest of your text. If a quoted word or phrase fits into the flow of your sentence without a break or pause, then a comma may not be necessary:

  • The phrase “lovely, dark and deep” begins to suggest ominous overtones.

Following a form of to say, however, you’ll almost always need a comma:

  • My father always said, “Be careful what you wish for.”

If the quoted speech follows an independent clause yet could be part of the same sentence, use a colon to set off the quoted language:

  • My mother’s favorite quote was from Shakespeare: “This above all, to thine own self be true.”

When an attribution of speech comes in the middle of quoted language, set it apart as you would any parenthetical element:

  • “I don’t care,” she said, “what you think about it.”

Be careful, though, to begin a new sentence after the attribution if sense calls for it:

  • “I don’t care,” she said. “What do you think?”

In proofreading and editing your writing, remember that quotation marks always travel in pairs. Also, in parenthetical documentation, the period comes after the parenthetical citation, which comes after the quotation mark:

  • “And miles to go before I sleep” (Frost 14).


Reporting Silent Speech

In reporting “silent speech”—language that is not spoken out loud—writers can put quotation marks around it or not. Both of the following statements are correctly punctuated:

  • Oh, what a beautiful morning, Curly said to himself.
  • “Oh, what a beautiful morning!” Curly said to himself.


Quotations with Emphasis

Be careful not to use quotation marks in an attempt to emphasize a word (the kind of thing you see in grocery store windows—Big “Sale” Today!). Underline or italicize that word instead. (The quotation marks will suggest to some people that you are using that word in a special or peculiar way and that you really mean something else.)


Quotations with Indirect Quotes or Speech

We do not enclose an indirect quotation (a paraphrase or a summary) in quotation marks. An indirect quotation reports what someone says but not in the exact, original language.

  • The President said that NAFTA would eventually be a boon to small businesses in both countries.
  • Professor Villa told her students the textbooks were not yet in the bookstore.


Quotation Marks with Other Punctuation

If the quoted material is a question or exclamation, the question mark or exclamation mark should appear inside the quotation marks and should function as the end punctuation for the sentence:

  • Mizrahi’s first line of text asked the question, “What is the point?”
  • When told that she would focus on exclamations, she said, “I love exclamations!”

If the quoted material is not a question, but the sentence in which you are placing the quote is a question, the question mark should appear outside of the quotation marks:

  • Which professor advised you to “Always come to class prepared”?