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For all tips and guidelines to help improve your writing skills.
"Hilarious!" "A great family movie!" "Two thumbs up!" Claims of this kind leap out from most movie ads, always set off by quotation marks. In fact, the quotation marks are a key component of such statements, indicating that the praise comes from people other than the movie promoter. In other words, it is praise that we should believe. This section provides tips for using quotation marks for many purposes.
EDITING QUOTATION MARKS:
Use quotation marks around direct quotations and titles of short works.
Do not use quotation marks around set-off quotations of more than four lines of prose or three lines of poetry, or around titles of long works.
Check other punctuation used with closing quotation marks.
Periods and commas should be inside the quotation marks.
Colons, semi-colons, and footnote numbers should be outside.
Question marks, exclamation points, and dashes should be inside if they are part of the quoted material, outside if they are not.
Never use quotation marks around indirect quotations.
Keith said that "he was sorry"
Keith said that he was sorry
Do not rely on quotation marks to add emphasis to words.
USE QUOTATION MARKS TO SIGNAL DIRECT QUOTATION:
Bush called for a "kinder, gentler" country.
She smiled and said, "Son, this is one incident that I will never forget."
Use quotation marks to enclose the words of the speaker within running dialogue. Mark each shift in speaker with a new paragraph.
"But I can see you're bound to come," said the father. "Only we ain't going to catch us no fish, because there ain't no water left to catch ‘em in."
"All but dry."
-EUDORA WELTY, "Ladies in Spring"
SINGLE QUOTATION MARKS:
Single quotation marks enclose a quotation within a quotation. Open and close the quoted passage with double quotation marks, and change any quotation marks that appear within the quotation to single quotation marks.
Baldwin says, "The title ‘The Uses of the Blues' does not refer to music; I don't know anything about music."
USE QUOTATION MARKS TO QUOTE FEWER THAN FOUR LINES OF PROSE OR POETRY:
If the passage you wish to quote is four typed lines or more, set the quotation off by starting it on a new line and indenting it ten spaces from the left margin. This format, known as block quotation, does not require quotation marks.
In Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak, Leslie Marmon Silko describes her early education, saying:
I learned to love reading, and love books, and the printed page, and therefore was motivated to learn to write. The best thing ... you can have in life is to have someone tell you a story ... but in lieu of that ... I learned at an early age to find comfort in a book, that a book would talk to me when no one else could. (145)
The page number in parentheses at the end of the quotation is a citation following the Modern Language Association's (MLA) style. The American Psychological Association (APA) has different guidelines for setting off block quotations.
When quoting poetry, if the quotation is brief (fewer than four lines), include it within your text. Separate the lines of the poem with slashes, each preceded and followed by a space, in order to tell the reader where on line of the poem ends and the next begins.
In one of his best-known poems, Robert Frost remarks, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I - / I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference."
To quote more than three lines of poetry, indent each line ten spaces from the left margin, and do not use quotation marks. When you quote poetry, take care to follow the indentation, spacing, capitalization, punctuation, and other features of the original passage.
The duke in Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess" is clearly a jealous, vain person, whose arrogance is illustrated through this statement:
She thanked men, - good! But thanked
Somehow - I know not how - as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift.
USE QUOTATION MARKS AROUND TITLES OF SHORT WORKS:
Quotation marks enclose the titles of short poems, short stories, articles, essays, songs, sections of books, and episodes of television and radio programs.
1. "Dover Beach" moves from calmness to sadness. [poem]
2. Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" is about more than just quilts. [short story]
3. In "Photography," Susan Sontag considers the role of photography in our society. [essay]
4. The Atlantic published an article entitled "Illiberal Education." [article]
5. Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" became an anthem for Generation X. [song]
6. In the chapter "Complexion," Rodriguez describes his sensitivity about his skin color. [section of book]
7. The Nature episode "Echo of the Elephants" portrays ivory hunters unfavorably. [episode of television program]
USE QUOTATION MARKS AROUND DEFININTIONS:
In social science, the term sample size means "the number of individuals being studied in a research project."
- KATHLEEN STASSEN BERGER AND ROSS A. THOMPSON, The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence.
CHECK OTHER PUNCTUATION USED WITH QUOTATION MARKS:
Periods and commas go inside closing quotation marks.
"Don't compromise yourself," said Janis Joplin. "You are all you've got."
Colons, semicolons, and footnote numbers go outside closing quotation marks.
1. I felt only one emotion after finishing "Eveline": pity.
2. Everything is dark, and "a visionary light settles in her eyes" this vision, this light, is her salvation.
3. Tragedy is defined by Aristotle as "an imitation of an action that is serious and of a certain magnitude.ŕ
Question marks, exclamation points, and dashes go inside if they are part of the quoted material, outside if they are not.
PART OF THE QUOTATION:
1. Gently shake the injured person while asking, "Are you all right?"
2. "Jump!" one of the firefighters shouted.
NOT PART OF THE QUOTATION:
1. What is the theme of "The Birth-Mark"?
2. "Break a leg" - that phrase is supposed to bring good luck.
CHECK FOR MISUSED QUOTATION MARKS:
Do not use quotation marks for indirect quotations - those that do not use someone's exact words:
1. Mother smiled and said that "she would never forget the incident."
Mother smiled and said that she would never forget the incident.
Do not use quotation marks just to add emphasis to particular words or phrases.
1. Michael said that his views may not be "politically correct," but that he wasn't going to change them for anything.
Michael said that his views may not be politically correct, but that he wasn't going to change them for anything.
2. Much time was spent speculating about their "friendship."
Much time was spent speculating about their friendship.
Do not use quotation marks around slang or colloquial language; they create the impression that you are apologizing for using those words. If you have a good reason to use slang or a colloquial term, use it without quotation marks.
1. After our twenty-mile hike, we were completely exhausted and ready to "turn-in."
After our twenty-mile hike, we were completely exhausted and ready to "turn-in."
FOR MULTILINGUAL WRITERS:
American English and British English offer opposite conventions for double and single quotation marks. Writers of British English use single quotation marks first and, when necessary, double quotation marks for quotations within quotations.