Quotation marks, which are also known as inverted commas, have two types - single and double.
Double marks are used to indicate direct quotations, as follows:
- John exclaimed: "That's my hat!"
- Manager Rafael Benitez was critical of his team's performance."We did not get going and were never in the game", he said.
Take care over punctuation in direct quotations. In the second example, the comma after 'game' comes before the closing quotation mark. This is also the rule for termination marks, colons and semicolons. The exception is a dash, which comes after the closing quotation mark:
- He admitted that he was "a little bit drunk" - an understatement if ever I heard one.
As in this example, a direct quotation need not start with a capital letter if it does not come at the start of a sentence (i.e. immediately after a full-stop), or if only a part of a complete sentence is being quoted. For example:
- "I've got to go shopping", said Joanne, "so I may be late home."
- The national anthem asks God to "save our gracious Queen".
In the first example, the second part of the quotation is a continuation of the sentence started by the first, and therefore does not need a capital letter. In the second example, the words being quoted appear exactly as they do in their original context. When writing an essay, remember that a direct quotation should always present the words exactly as they appear in the source. Any paraphrasing must appear either outside the quotation marks, or in square brackets within the quotation.
Single quotation marks are used to indicate a quotation within a quotation, a situation which crops up frequently in essays. For example:
- In his analysis of sonnet 116, Smith says that "Shakespeare demonstrates his mastery of classical rhetoric in the line 'Which alters when it alteration finds' - a perfect example of chiasmus".
Note that the rules for using single quotation marks within another quotation are exactly the same as for any direct quotation - the case of the opening letter is the same as in the source, and punctuation appears as it would for double quotation marks.
Single quotation marks are also used to indicate that a word or phrase is a slang or technical term, single it out as a term to be defined, or, flag it up as a term being referenced from elsewhere in a piece of work. In this usage, other punctuation always comes outside the quotation marks:
- Young people often refer to something that is good as 'cool';
- Some people call them 'inverted commas', but I prefer 'quotation marks';
- An 'interrogation mark' is used to turn a statement into a direct question.
Need help with your punctuation?
Are you struggerling to write an essay with the correct punctuation? Our researchers are here to help. Find out more by clicking on the link below:
Essay writing service