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Writing

This Guide was created as a joint project of the Academic Resource Center and the William H. Hannon Library.

Directed Learning: Quotation Marks

Punctuation with Quotation Marks

Rule of Two:
Two punctuation marks (periods and commas) go inside quotation marks, two marks (colons and semi colons) go outside, and two (question marks and exclamation points) can go in either place, depending upon meaning.

Two go inside:
Period: “That doesn’t concern you.”
Comma: I like Aretha’s songs “Respect,” “Do Right Woman,” and “I Never Loved a Man.”

Two go outside:
Semicolon: I don’t like “Respect”; it’s too monotonous.
Colon: I like “I Never Loved a Man”: it’s a blues ballad in gospel style.

Two go in OR out, depending on meaning:
Question (inside): He asked me, “Do you like blues?”
Question (outside): What didn’t you like about “Respect”?
Exclamation (inside): Someone yelled, “Encore!”
Exclamation (outside): Play “Ain’t No Way”!

Quotations within quotations:
When someone is reporting what one person said another person said, use a single quotation within a double quotation.
            The reviewer said, “When I asked her where she got such vocal power, she said, ‘it was a gift from God.’”

Capitalization within quotations:
If you are quoting a complete sentence, begin the quotation with a capital letter.
            He asked me, “Do you like blues?”
If you are quoting only a fragment of a sentence, do not begin the quotation with a capital.
            He said that Aretha Franklin is a “powerful and highly acclaimed” R & B singer.

If a sentence is interrupted in the middle, do not capitalize the second part.
           “Renowned for her soul recordings,” the review said, “she is also adept at jazz, blues, R&B, and gospel.”

Other Uses for Quotation Marks
Use to enclose titles of short works: poems, stories, articles, chapters of books, essays, songs, episodes of TV shows. These short works are usually part of a longer work which is written in italics.

Use to indicate words used ironically or with some reservation (also known as “scare quotes”). Use these sparingly!
This is irony: American "progress" has left millions impoverished.
This is not: American progress has left millions “impoverished.”

Quotation marks may be used for words set off as words, but italics are preferred.
            The words there and they’re are often confused.

Do not use quotation marks:

  • to add emphasis to particular words, to set off slang or colloquial language.
  • around indirect quotations: Franklin said she loved blues the best. 
  • around the title of your own essay except when you are referring to your essay in another paper.

Directed Learning Activity: Quotation Marks

Links to Other Resources