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How to Use Quotation Marks

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Quotation marks - " ... "are used to express the exact words someone else used. Quotations are also used to quote lines from a book, magazine article, blog post, etc. Finally, quotation marks are used to indicate the chapter titles or names of articles within magazines. Each use of quotation marks, including proper punctuation use, is detailed below.

Quoting The Exact Words

Use quotation marks when relating the exact phrase someone else uses.

Examples

Peter said, "I enjoy playing all kinds of sports."
The director told his employees, "Don't worry about your jobs. We'll get the situation under control."

This use of quotations is known as direct speech, and is different from indirect, or reported, speech. Look at the differences between direct and indirect speech and the use - or non-use - of quotation marks.

Examples

Direct Speech / Quotation marks: Anna said, "We purchased a new home last week." Indirect Speech / No Quotation marks: Anna said they had purchased a new home the previous week.

Use of Punctuation with Quotation Marks

Here are the rules for using punctuation marks when using direct speech:

  • Begin a quotation mark with a capitalized letter as you would with any sentence in English. This is true even though the quotation occurs within a sentence.

    Jennifer said, "There are many difficulties in this area of study."
    Alison asked her brother, "How long are you going to stay in the bathroom?"

  • Place a comma after the reporting verb (said, told, announced, stated, etc.) if the clause with a reporting verb begins the sentence.

    The CEO announced, "TRY Inc. produces quality auto parts for any make or model."
    My brother said, "We are moving to China next year."

  • If the quote begins the sentence and is interrupted by a reporting verb, place a first comma inside the quotes and a second after the reporting verb.

    "I don't think I understand," the student told the teacher, "why we have to study grammar."
    "If you work hard," the father told his son, "you'll succeed in life."

  • Place periods inside quotes that end sentences

    Peter told Alice, "We would like to stay an extra week."
    The director announced, "Students must have a 3.5 GPA to be on the honor role."

  • Place an exclamation point, or question mark before the final quotation mark, if it is part of the quote.

    The employee asked her director, "How long will we have for the new marketing campaign?"
    The boy told his mother, "I don't want to go to school today!"

  • Place an exclamation point, or question mark outside the final quotation mark, if it is NOT part of the quote. Notice that a period is not used within the quote, even if the quoted sentence is complete.

    Were you surprised when he said, "I love you"?
    How did they react when the CEO announced, "We have to cut at least 500 jobs"?

  • Place semicolons and colons outside quotation marks.

    Susan said, "You need to improve your writing skills"; then she continued discussing the article in class.
    Mary told the students, "Learn these four skills": conversation, listening, writing and reading.

Quoting Titles

Use quotation marks when mentioning the names of chapters from a book or articles from a magazine. Underline the name of the book or magazine.

Examples

"When I was Young," is a delightful chapter from Doug Brook's novel.
I read an interesting opinion piece, "Why Things Won't Change" in a newspaper.

Quoting Writing - Short Quotations

When quoting lines from a book that are shorter than a three to four lines, use quotation marks in the manner described above.

Quoting Writing - Long Quotations

For quotations that are longer than three to four lines, use block quotes without quotation marks. Block quotes take the text you are quoting and place them one inch right of the margin of your essay, report, etc.

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