How to Use Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are often seen as confusing, but the rules are simple. This is a grammar guide to using quotation marks.

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Quotation marks are an interesting point of discussion as there are some differences between the two that you can use that force you to make a decision for your writing project. You have the double quote mark—“ ”—or the single quote mark—‘ ’—both of which are used for both speech and quotes.

Which one you use for each is almost completely up to you, though there are traditionally accepted standards, which are as follows:

UK Standard

The standard for UK publishing is single quote marks for speech and double quote marks for quotes.

USA Standard

The standard for publishing in the USA is double quote marks for speech and single quote marks for quotes.

 

Whilst these are common historically, they are not really rules anymore and there are plenty of books published in both territories that use the wrong one. The single most important rule that you have to follow, however, is that once you pick which one you will use for speech you do not deviate from that. You cannot do this:

”Hi Jim.”

‘Howdy James.’

You use one for speech and the other for quotes and never the twain shall meet.
If your speech extends beyond a paragraph into another, you need to open the speech marks on the second paragraph without closing them on the first. For example:

“Hi Jim,” James said. “Isn’t it confusing how our names are so similar? Maybe I should change mine.

“I quite like the name Fred. I knew a Fred once, but that’s a whole other story for another time.”

There is one final point to note in using these and it’s largely to do with rich text formatting. This mechanism is what Word—and other similar products—use to essentially make the writing look good over something like Notepad, which uses plain text formatting. The reason this is relevant is that Word and its fonts have appropriately curved quotation marks. It opens with something akin to a 6 and closes with a 9, or two of them if you’re using double. Notepad and similar do not do this, they use a straight line. This isn’t a massive issue but it is something that you’ll have to fix later on if you are using a basic word processor for the majority of your writing.

Davina Chime is a Thanet-born hopeless romantic.

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