Rules for Quotation Marks
Quotation marks set off direct quotations and the titles of certain works. Below we’ve outlined different rules and examples for correctly using quotation marks in your writing.
Quotation Marks with Direct Quotations
Quotation marks help indicate to a reader what a person said. Direct quotations are a person’s exact words, while indirect quotations are summaries of what someone said. Insert quotation marks at the beginning and end of direct quotations only. Indirect quotations don’t require quotation marks since they’re not the person’s exact words.
Place a comma after explanatory words such as said, asked, announced, and shouted when the words appear before a direct quotation. Place a comma inside of the end of the quotation marks when the explanatory words appear after a direct quotation.
End punctuation, such as periods, exclamation points, and question marks, should always go inside of the end of the quotation marks when the end punctuation accompanies the quotation. Place exclamation points and question marks on the outside of the quotation when they’re not part of the quotation. Here are some examples:
Part of the quotation : Jason asked, “How should I dress for a job interview?”
Not part of the quotation : Did you hear Laura say, “I think I’m going to change careers”?
Examples of Quotation Marks:
Quotation Marks Example: The letter said, “We are pleased to inform you that you’ve been accepted into the English department’s graduate school program.”
Quotation Marks Example: Alec wrote, “I’ll be arriving on February 20th at O’Hare Airport. Could you pick me up?”
Quotation Marks Example: Professor Kaplan announced, “Three absences will result in a dropped grade.”
Quotation Marks Example: The recipe says, “Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.”
Quotation Marks Example: “Please arrive promptly for your doctor’s appointment,” the receptionist reminded me.
Quotation Marks Example: “Could you help me shovel snow from the sidewalk?” Dad asked.
Quotation Marks Example: “Quick! Grab the paddle before it floats away!” my canoe partner shouted.
Quotation Marks Example: “Can I please have a cookie?” Tommy begged, his eyes pleading.
In a divided quotation, only place quotation marks around the words that are part of the quotation. Use commas to set off the explanatory words. If the divided quotation consists of separate sentences, however, then place end punctuation after the explanatory words and capitalize the first word of the second quotation.
Examples of Divided Quotation Marks:
Divided Quotation Marks Example: “Have you ever wondered,” Monica asked, “how many stars are in the sky?”
Divided Quotation Marks Example: “I was just thinking,” Kieran said between bites of food, “that we should take a road trip this summer.”
Divided Quotation Marks Example: “I think I forgot,” Aaron announced, “to pack socks for the trip.”
Divided Quotation Marks Example: “Eddie!” Mom called to the dog. “Come get a treat!”
Divided Quotation Marks Example: “Did you see the soccer game the other day?” Alba asked. “It was great!”
Divided Quotation Marks Example: “You should wear your gloves,” Dad said. “It’s cold outside.”
When enclosing a direct quotation within another direct quotation, use single quotation marks around the enclosed quotation.
Examples of Enclosed Quotation Marks:
Enclosed Quotation Marks: “The first line of the poem is, ‘Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,’” Nikki pointed out.
Enclosed Quotation Marks: Terry said, “The weather forecast in this newspaper says that ‘snow is expected to accumulate up to five inches over the next 24 hours.’”
Enclosed Quotation Marks: Holly said to me, “This article defines the Kuiper belt as ‘a ring of icy bodies revolving around the sun.’”
Enclosed Quotation Marks: “Shane told me to order him ‘the biggest burger on the menu,’” Dad said as we approached the drive-through window.
Enclosed Quotation Marks: Mom said, “Kevin wrote in his email, ‘I’ll be visiting for a couple of weeks over the holidays.’”
Enclosed Quotation Marks: “This bottle says that sunscreen ‘should be reapplied after swimming or taking part in sports activities,’” Kina said.
Quotation Marks with Titles
Insert quotation marks around the titles of short stories, songs, magazine articles, essays, chapters, television episodes, and most poems.
Title Quotation Marks Example: Have you ever heard the song “Moon River”?
Title Quotation Marks Example: I read a science article called “Why Lightning Bugs Light Up.”
Title Quotation Marks Example: In English class, we read the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken.”
Title Quotation Marks Example: The first chapter of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is called “The Cyclone.”
Title Quotation Marks Example: The last episode of the television show Seinfeld was simply called “The Finale.”
Title Quotation Marks Example: Edgar Allan Poe wrote an essay called “The Philosophy of Composition” about his poem “The Raven.”
Title Quotation Marks Example: My favorite Shirley Jackson short story is “The Lottery.”
If you are writing the title of one of these text types within a direct quotation, then place single quotation marks around the titles.
More Quotation Marks with Titles Examples:
Title Quotation Marks Example: “Jonathan Swift wrote his satirical essay ‘A Modest Proposal’ to criticize the mistreatment of the Irish by the English in the 1700s,” our teacher explained.
Title Quotation Marks Example: My mom told me, “One of the songs the Beatles played on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 was ‘She Loves You.’”
Title Quotation Marks Example: According to this literature compilation, “O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’ is one of the most popular short stories ever written.”
Why Are Quotation Marks Important?
Without quotation marks, it would be difficult to tell the difference between a person or character’s spoken words and other descriptions. Also, because quotation marks set off a person’s exact words, they can help you avoid plagiarizing another person’s work by indicating that you are directly quoting from that person.
Check out our free, printable Quotation Marks Worksheets