Uses of Quotation Marks in English Writing

This article will look at the ways in which you can use quotation marks as a punctuation mark in your writing.

Setting off quotations

1. When you quote directly from a printed or non-printed source, you must enclose the quoted text, be it a fragment or a full statement, in quotation marks, both in the beginning and end of the quoted text. In MLA style, if a quotation is no more than 4 lines long, it is considered short and thus incorporated into the text. Documentation information (reference to the origin of the quote) is given before the sentence's ending period.
Whenever I learn a new language, I am always reminded of my high-school French teacher who always used to say that "practice makes perfect."
[Fragment in a short quote incorporated into the general text body]

Text body...After surveying a large corpus of research, Smith contends that "according to recent educational surveys, it is largely accepted that English has now become so widely spoken around the world that it can easily be regarded as the 'international language' of the 21st century" (Smith, 2005) . Other researchers further support this notion by...
[Full statement in a short quote of three lines incorporated into the general text body]

2. In MLA style, if a quotation is more than 4 lines long, it is considered long and is not incorporated into the text. Instead, indent the long quote as a separate block of text. Documentation information (reference to the origin of the quote) is given after the quote's ending period. You do not use quotation marks with indented block quotations. If the block quotation is part of the introductory sentence (as in the below example), it does not begin with a capital letter. If the block quotation starts with a separate sentence, not grammatically related to the introductory sentence, then it does begin with a capital letter.
After surveying a large corpus of research, Smith contends that according to recent educational surveys, it is largely accepted that English has now become so widely spoken around the world that it can easily be regarded as the "international language " of the 21st century. It is estimated that about 25% of the world's population is currently studying or using English at various levels of proficiency. Although many English speakers regard themselves as "Native Speakers," only about 400 million of them can rightfully do so, having been raised and educated in a fully English speaking environment. (Smith, 2005)

3. In MLA style, quotation marks appearing within quotation marks have to be distinguished from one another. In short quotations of prose, use single quotation marks for internal quotations. In long quotation marks, keep the double quotation marks as they appear in the original text from which you are quoting.

Quotation marks for setting off dialog and poetry

1. When writing the exact words (direct words) of a speaker quoted in dialog, you need to set the speech apart from the narrative (the words of the author telling the story) and differentiate between the different speakers' words. Therefore, enclose the words of each speaker's line with both opening and closing quotation marks. Non-dialog text may appear in the same paragraph as dialog.

2. When writing a dialog, you should start a new paragraph every time the writer changes. If the spoken lines are brief and you prefer to keep all information pertaining to a certain scene together, then you may start a new paragraph at the beginning of a new scene.

3. If a speaker is being quoted in more than one paragraph, use double quotation marks in the beginning of each paragraph, but add the closing quotation marks only at the end of the last paragraph of that speaker's paragraph sequence.
My English as a foreign language class used to meet twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays evenings. We were a mixture of exchange students from all over the world trying to improve our English in London. Our teacher, Bella, was a lively redhead grandmother, looking much less than her real age, always smiling and laughing. Each lesson would start in the same way. Good evening everybody, let's see now, who's late today? “Bella used to say.
"It's Jose, he's late again, “said Hans, the class genius and teacher's pet. Then, the Indian girls would start giggling at Hans's funny accent. "That Hans sure talks funny, but he's cute and... “they would converse secretly amongst themselves.
"Who has something interesting to say about yesterday's news? I asked you to watch the 20:00 o'clock news.
Yes, Sven, what can you tell us about..." Bella would always start with Sven, who worked as a political commentator for Swedish T.V. and...

4. Do not use quotation marks in screenplays and scripts, where every line is dialog. Start a new paragraph every time the speaker changes.

Quotation marks for setting off special text

1. When referring to words used as words, you can mark them out by either quotation marks, underlining or italics. Whichever option you choose, be consistent throughout any given piece of writing.
It is a common mistake among students of English to confuse "expect" and "except” when reading or writing.
[Words set off with quotation marks]

It is a common mistake among students of English to confuse expect and except when reading or writing.
[Words set off using italics]

2. When you use technical terms related to a certain profession or field of study, enclose them in quotation marks and provide a definition. This is important as your audience may not be familiar with these expressions and may take them at face value. If the audience of your writing is familiar with professional jargon, it would be unnecessary or even insulting to use quotation marks. Do not reuse quotation marks with technical terms once they have been introduced and defined.

  • "The passive voice “– the form of the verb in which the subject is acted on in order to emphasize the action       rather than its doer – is not recommended to be used profusely, according to most writing guides.                  However, not all writers take this recommendation about the passive voice seriously.

[Term introduced in quotation marks, definition provided between dashes, reoccurrence of term without quotation marks]

3. When you use a word that in itself is not unusual, but locate it in a context in which it would have a different nonstandard sense or is jargon related, enclose it in quotation marks. This way, the reader understands that the word is used in a manner out of the ordinary.
In the grammatical jargon of English verb tenses, a "simple” verb means that the verb is composed of one word and simply states an action or situation. Actions which are incomplete and still ongoing are expressed by "progressive” forms, while "perfect” tenses denote the completeness of the action rather than it having been performed perfectly or without flaws.

4. When you use self-coined terms your readers are unlikely to be familiar with, draw their attention to these by using quotation marks and providing definitions.
On our last writing assignment about creating instructions for a new game, we received one grade for writing proficiency and one for "idiot proofing , " that is, how clear and self-explanatory the instructions would be to even the most obtuse reader.

5. Use quotation marks with words and phrases where the sentence would be difficult to understand, as the reader may not be able to relate certain words to others by, for example, mistaking parts of speech.
unclear: In some word processors, track changes is a feature that allows you to make editing changes visible.
[Track changes may be mistaken for a demand directed at the reader]

better: In some word processors, "track changes" is a feature that allows you to make editing changes visible.
[Track changes is perceived as an independent concept]

6. Use quotation marks with English translations of words and phrases from other languages. Use italics for the original in the source language.
My old Latin teacher would always complain that his wife could keep on chatting with her country club friends        ad infinitum (“continuing forever ").

7. Use quotation marks around words you mean to use ironically or in any other non-literal manner.
The "reform” proposed by the Ministry of Education turned out to be yet another budget-cut scheme.
[Ironical use of reform]

In politically correct language, bad looking girls are sometimes referred to as "aesthetically challenging.”
[Non-standard use of aesthetically challenging]

8. Academic writing does not usually tolerate slang or cliches and prefers different wordings to express the same idea. If you cannot or do not wish to avoid these for stylistic purposes, use quotation marks to set them off the text.
Avoid: When a new American brand enters the local market, initial consumer response has it "selling like hot cakes."
Better: When a new American brand enters the local market, initial consumer response creates an immediate considerable demand.

9. Use quotation marks with nicknames when these appear together with the full name. Nicknames on their own do not warrant quotation marks. If the nickname is well known, you do not need to give it with the full name.
Cherilyn LaPiere, better known as the singer Cher
[Known person, no quotation marks around Cher]

Lou "the Lizard" Maloney
[unknown person, quotation marks around the nickname the Lizard, which appears with the full name ]

10. In order to distinguish some phrases used as adjectives, it is recommended to set them off with quotation marks.
I think the "artsy-fartsy” crowd she is hanging out with is a bit snobbish.

I don't like the "don't call us – we'll call you” attitude you get in job interviews.

Pay attention!
11. Do not use quotation marks with a word simply to call attention to it or express sarcasm.
No: She was "very” pleased with the students' grades.

12. Do not enclose or use quotation marks with titles of school essays or academic papers in quotation marks, unless they include another title that does require quotation marks.
Comparative Literary Analysis of Shakespeare's "Macbeth” with Ibsen's "A Doll's House.”

Quotation marks for setting off titles

1. When referring to short works by their titles, enclose these titles with quotation marks. Short works may consist of short stories, essays, poems, magazine or journal articles, book chapters, brochures, pamphlets, songs and episodes from television or radio series.
We discussed Baldwin's "When my Dungeon Shook” back in high school.

Frost's poem "The Road not Taken” has really gotten me thinking about my plans for the future.

I think "Vogue” is one of Madonna's greatest songs ever!
[Popular song]

I couldn't sleep after watching "The Best of both Worlds," the double Star-Trek episode broadcasted last week.
[TV series episode]

2. Longer works, such as titles or names of books, plays, films, magazines, journals, newspapers, and TV or radio series are not enclosed in quotation marks. Instead, they are sometimes italicized or underlined, and sometimes they are given in regular Roman type. As there may be many variations, consult a style guide in case you need to write along the lines of one.
The cinematic trilogy The Matrix is partly based on Jean Baudriard's book Simulacra and Simulations.
[Film, book - given in italics]

There is a very positive review in The New York Times on last night's performance of Vivaldi's The Four                  Seasons.
[Newspaper, musical piece - given in regular Roman Type]

3. Do not use quotation marks with political parties, geographical locations and institutions.
The Democratic Party held rallies in suburban YMCA centers in the southern districts.