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Quotation Marks

There are many conventions to using quotation marks that can get confusing. Use the following rules to make sure your usage is correct.

1. Always put direct quotations in quotation marks

CORRECT: My mother said, "stop making that face, or it'll stay that way."

2. If a direct quote is longer than four typed lines, block it

Block quotes:

  • Should be indented from the left margin. Different manuscript formats have different rules, so consult your professor to make sure which format you should be using.
  • Should NOT be enclosed in quotation marks.
  • Should be followed by a citation that comes OUTSIDE the closing punctuation of the quote.

3. Put quotes within quotes in single quotation marks

CORRECT: My sister told me, "Mom keeps yelling 'clean your room' at me, and I'm sick of it."

4. Put titles of "short works11" in quotation marks

CORRECT: Borges' "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" is a really interesting story.

5. Use quotation marks to enclose words used as words

CORRECT: I always spell "commemorate" wrong.

You will also sometimes see these words italicized or underlined. Any method is fine as long as it's consistent.

DO NOT use quotation marks to set off slang, kitschy expressions, or words you mean to use ironically.

INCORRECT: My sister is a real "girly-girl."

6. Place punctuation correctly in reference to quotation marks

Periods and Commas

These marks should go inside the ending quotation mark when there is no citation involved.

CORRECT: I told my colleague, "You need to do it over again ."

When the quote is followed by a citation, the punctuation goes outside the parenthetical.

CORRECT: Diana Hacker says, "the period goes outside the parenthetical" (306).

Colons and Semicolons

These marks should go outside the ending quotation mark. If there is a citation, they follow it.

CORRECT: I told my colleague, "You need to do it over again"; he didn't take that well at all.

CORRECT: Diana Hacker says, "put colons and semicolons outside quotation marks" (306); this is a good rule to follow.

Question Marks and Exclamation Points

These marks should go inside quotation marks if they're part of the quotation itself. If they apply to the whole sentence, they go outside the quotation marks.

CORRECT: I always end my sessions by asking, "do you have any questions?"

CORRECT: Haven't you ever heard anyone say, "don't count your chickens before they're hatched"?


11 Hacker 305. Examples include articles, poems, short stories, songs, television episodes, radio programs, and chapters or subdivisions of longer works.