The English Department's
Quick Guide to Using Quotation Marks
Note: We're following U.S. conventions in this guide.
Use quotation marks to indicate word-for-word quotations and all dialogue.
- William Shakespeare wrote: "To be or not to be, that is the question."
- "Bon voyage," he said cheerfully.
- "I did not!" she exclaimed indignantly.
Exception #1: For long quotations in scholarly papers, set off the quotation by indentation without quotation marks. This applies to quotations that are four lines or longer.
Exception #2: If you're writing a script, there is no need to use quotation marks in your dialogue.
Use single quotes to enclose a quotation within a quotation.
Use quotation marks to indicate the titles of short stories, essays, short poems, songs, and articles.
- Suzy complained, "My mother is always telling me, ĎEat your vegetables!í"
- Scholar Howard Bloch notes, "[A]ccording to Tertullian, woman naturally decorates herself and is by nature decoration: ĎFemale habit carries with it a twofold idea--dress and ornament.í"
(Use italics or underlining to indicate the titles of books, journals, magazines, and newspapers.)
Put commas inside quotation marks. Put a period inside the quotation marks if the quotation ends the sentence.
- I read "Beauty and the Beast" in Fairy Tales for Children.
- Newsweek had an informative article called "Crisis in the Middle East."
- Sue argued that the Beatlesí greatest song was "A Day in the Life" on Sgt. Pepperís Lonely Hearts Club Band.
- Elizabeth Bishopís poem "Love Lies Sleeping" appeared in North & South.
Put colons, semicolons, and dashes outside the quotation marks.
- "Iím happy," he said.
- He said, "Iím happy."
Put question marks and exclamation marks within quotes only when they apply to the quoted matter. Put them outside when they do not.
- He warned me, "Youíll be sorry"; I didnít listen.
- An exciting story is "Young Goodman Brown"--itís full of witches and devils.
- One character is clearly the most noble in "The Franklin's Tale": the magician.
- Who said, "The unexamined life is not worth living"?
- Bill asked, "Do you know what time it is?"
- I canít stand the song "Some Enchanted Evening"!
© The English Department 1999