When to Use Quotation Marks

Rule #1:

Place a pair of quotation marks around direct quotes and dialogue.

 

Examples:

Direct quote:

The blog said, “Place a pair of quotation marks around direct quotes and dialogue.”

  • This is word for word what the blog said so you use quotation marks.

Direct dialogue:

She said, “Oh gosh, I didn’t know that. That is so cool.”

  • This is reporting exactly what someone else said so you use quotation marks.

Summarizing a quote:

The blog teaches you how to use quotation marks with quotes and dialogue.

  • This isn’t the exact quote so you don’t use quotation marks.

Indirect dialogue:

She asked him if he had read the blog yet.

  • These aren’t her exact words so you don’t use quotation marks.

 


Rule #2:

Place a pair of quotation marks around titles of short works.

Short works consist of articles, blogs, songs, poems, TV show episode (the title of TV show is a larger work), short stories, etc.

 

Examples:

The blog “When to Use Quotation Marks” is very informative.

  • A blog is a shorter work so you use quotation marks.

I am currently reading The Copyeditor’s Handbook.

  • A book is a larger work so you don’t use quotation marks.

 


Rule #3:

Place a pair of quotation marks around words to indicate irony, sarcasm, or skepticism (scare quotes)

Scare quotes are often overused or used incorrectly. Out in the wild, many use them for emphasis, but that isn’t their purpose.

If you are using the word ironically, but you have the word “so-called” in front of it, then you don’t need to use scare quotes.

 

Examples:

A few “editors” aren’t trained and don’t do a good job, so make sure you vet your editor.

  • “Editors” is being used sarcastically here, as the writer doesn’t feel they are real editors.

A few so-called editors aren’t trained and don’t do a good job, so make sure you vet your editor.

  • Since the word “so-called” is used in front, no scare quotes are needed.

Incorrect use (these are real examples taken from signs):

“Qualified” mechanic wanted. Apply inside.

  • I highly doubt they are looking for a non-qualified mechanic, like the quotation marks suggest. They aren’t using this term ironically or sarcastically.

Enjoy your “safe” holidays on Rodos!

  • Now who is going to want to travel there when they aren’t sure if it is safe or not?

 


Rule #4:

Place a pair of quotation marks around words used as words.

This is when you are referring to a word instead of using the word to reflect its meaning.

You can also opt to use italics rather than quotation marks.

 

Examples:

The “p” in “pterodactyl” is silent.

  • Here they aren’t talking about a pterodactyl; instead, they are just referring to the word.

“Handbag” and “purse” aren’t perfectly interchangeable.

  • Here they aren’t talking about an actual purse and handbag; instead, they are talking about the words.

 


Practice:

  1. I am fine with whatever, she said.
  2. In this agreement, Beacon Point LLC will be referred to as the Company.
  3. Church parking only. Violators will be baptized.
  4. In his popular book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor says, Everything can be taken from a man but one thing … to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.
  5. My pet is really just a stray cat that comes by my house.
  6. The poem The Road not Taken by Robert Frost is often misinterpreted.
  7. The sentence contained too many and’s.
  8. The main takeaway from the blog 10 Realistic Expectations for Working with an Editor is that the relationship between an editor and author should be collaborative.
  9. This so-called declaration of war needs to end.
  10. We were reminded that bossy can be considered sexist.

 



Answers

  1. I am fine with whatever, she said.
  2. In this agreement, Beacon Point LLC will be referred to as the Company. (words used as words)
  3. Church parking only. Violators will be baptized. (this sign had the word “baptized” in quotation marks, but they aren’t using the word sarcastically)
  4. In his popular book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor says, Everything can be taken from a man but one thing … to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. (no quotations around the title because it is a larger work—a book)
  5. My pet is really just a stray cat that comes by my house.
  6. The poem The Road not Taken by Robert Frost is often misinterpreted.
  7. The sentence contained too many and’s.
  8. The main takeaway from the blog 10 Realistic Expectations for Working with an Editor is that the relationship between an editor and author should be collaborative. (no quotation marks around the takeaway since it isn’t a direct quote)
  9. This so-called declaration of war needs to end. (no scare quotes when you have the word “so-called”)
  10. We were reminded that bossycan be considered sexist.

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