Quotation marks (" ")
Use quotation marks for:
- Identifying direct quotations
- Defining words
- Referring to words and letters
- Expressing irony
- Setting off long modifiers
- Setting off the titles of some works
Identifying direct quotations
When quoting a person, a text, or another source directly, use these guidelines:
- Use quotation marks to surround the exact words of a speaker or writer.
“There are very few people,” he said, “who understand the logic.”
The writer said that his works are “total fictions.”
- To indicate quotes within quotes, use single quotation marks.
“I remember my first conversation with him,” Gonzales said. “He never came in and said, ‘I want my job back.’”
When defining or introducing an unfamiliar word or phrase in online copy, put the word or phrase in quotation marks on first reference only. (Foreign words should be in italics if possible—see “Coding Basics.”)
The browser will accept a “cookie” and open a new window. A cookie is a small amount of website data that is stored on your computer.
Do not enclose a word or phrase in quotation marks when it is preceded by so-called.
The browser accepts a so-called cookie and opens a new window.
Referring to words and letters
In Web copy, use quotation marks when referring to a word as a word or a letter as a letter—for example, the word “tranquil,” the letter “q.” Although print publications (including this one) often use italic text to set these off, a single italicized letter can be difficult to read onscreen.
A surprising number of people hate the word “moist.”
The word “memento” has only one “o.”
In general, leave off the quotation marks if you are referring to the plural of a word or letter: two buts, two e’s. But if the plural of a word could cause confusion, use a workaround: two instances of “mouse,” for example, instead of two mouses.
For information on forming plurals with apostrophes (or without them), see “Apostrophes.”
The sentence contains two friends, one misspelled, the other spelled correctly.
The sentence contains two instances of “friend,” one misspelled, the other spelled correctly.
The sentence contains “friend” in two places; in one place it’s spelled incorrectly, in the other correctly.
Quotation marks can also indicate irony, sarcasm, skepticism, or a nonstandard usage.
My date’s car “accidentally” ran out of gas.
The editor suspected that Janet’s original reporting was a little too “original,” and indeed the newspaper later discovered that Janet had invented several of her quotes.
Be careful about using quotation marks too often in these cases: It can be tiresome to read a lot of ironic phrasing, and the subtleties may be lost on readers who are scanning or who are not fluent in English. And avoid using quotation marks for emphasis. They can be misunderstood as indicating sarcasm or doubt.
We serve the “world’s best” coffee.
The physician’s shingle read
Dr. John Doe
Setting off long modifiers
If a compound modifier is long or contains other punctuation that makes hyphenation unsightly, use quotation marks instead of hyphens.
The cake was good, apart from the “I can totally believe it’s not butter” frosting.
The U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was introduced in 1993.
Setting off the titles of some works
Although print publications typically italicize titles of major works, italic text doesn’t appear correctly in all places online, so we recommend quotation marks for titles.
In general, use double quotation marks for the titles of books, lectures, movies, operas, plays, podcasts, poems, songs, speeches, television programs, videos, and works of art. In some cases, such as within headlines and other display type (for example, captions and pull quotes), titles can be enclosed in single quotation marks to save space.
For more information, including a complete list of titles that should be in quotation marks, see “Titles of Works.”
“Miami Vice” starred Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas.
The movie version of “Miami Vice” was released in 2006 and starred Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx.
TV’s “MacGyver” starred Richard Dean Anderson, and “Magnum, P.I.” starred Tom Selleck.
‘MacGyver,’ ‘Magnum, P.I.’ movie rumors fly (Headline with limited space)
Punctuation and quotation marks
Follow these rules for using punctuation with quotation marks:
- In general, place periods and commas inside quotation marks.
Kevin McKidd had starring roles in “Anna Karenina,” “Rome,” and “Journeyman.”
- If quotation marks are used to indicate a character or a string of characters that the user must type exactly, put any punctuation mark outside the closing quotation mark. Alternatively, reword the instruction so that the punctuation isn’t near the quotation marks, or use boldface type for the string.
For traffic conditions, type the city name, the street name, and the word “traffic”.
For traffic conditions, type the city name, the street name, and the word “traffic” in the box.
For traffic conditions, type the city name, the street name, and the word traffic.
- Tuck question marks and exclamation points within quotation marks if they’re part of the quote. Put them outside if they apply to the whole sentence.
The coach asked, “Are you ready to win?”
What does it mean to be left “high and dry”?
BRITISH VS. AMERICAN STYLES
In American style, commas and periods almost always go inside quotation marks: On Sundays, Mori is glued to the TV, watching “True Blood” and “Entourage.”
In British style, commas and periods go inside the quotation marks only if they’re part of a direct quote. In addition, single quotation marks are generally preferred to double quotation marks: On Sundays, Mori is glued to the TV, watching ‘True Blood’ and ‘Entourage’. (The period is not part of the TV show’s title, so it goes outside the quotes.) ‘I can’t come on Sunday’, Mori said. ‘I’m, uh, I’ve got a date.’ (The comma following Sunday comes after the closing quotation mark because it is not part of the quote. But Mori ended her sentence with a period, so the period is part of the quote.)
In American style, quotation marks that are inside other quotation marks are single quotation marks: Martin Luther King said, “That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind.”
British style varies in this, but many British publications prefer to have single quotes on the outside, double quotes on the inside: Martin Luther King said, ‘That old law about “an eye for an eye” leaves everybody blind.’