Quotation Marks

Punctuation with Quotation Marks

Use a comma to introduce a quotation after a standard dialogue tag, a brief introductory phrase, or a dependent clause.

For example: He said, "I may forget your name, but I never remember a face."

  • Use a colon to introduce a quotation after an independent clause.

For example: D. H. Nachas explains cultural differences in greeting customs: ‘Touching is not a universal sign of greeting. While members of European cultures meet and shake hands as a gesture of greeting, members of Asian cultures bow to indicate respect." 

  • Put commas and periods within closing quotation marks, except when a parenthetical reference follows the quotation.

For example: History is stained with blood spilled in the name of "civilization."
For example: Mullen, criticizing the apparent inaction, writes, "Donahue's policy was to do nothing" (27).

  • Put a dash, question mark, or exclamation point within closing quotation marks when the punctuation applies to the quotation itself and outside when it applies to the whole sentence. 

For example: Does Dr. Lim always say to her students, "You must work harder"?
For example: Sharon shouted enthusiastically, "We won! We won!"

Direct Quotations

  • Use a set of quotation marks to enclose direct quotations included in your writing. 

For example: Mr. and Mrs. Allen, owners of a 300-acre farm, said, "We refuse to use that pesticide because it might pollute the nearby wells."

  • Use a capital letter with the first word of a direct quotation of a whole sentence. Do not use a capital letter with the first word of a direct quotation of part of a sentence. 

For example: Mr. and Mrs. Allen stated that they "refuse to use that pesticide" because of possible water pollution.

  • If the quotation is interrupted and then continues in your sentence, do not capitalize the second part of the quotation.  For example: "He likes to talk about football," she said, "especially when the Super Bowl is coming up."

Quotation within a quotation

  • Use single quotation marks for a quotation enclosed inside another quotation.

For example: The agricultural reporter for the newspaper explained, "When I talked to the Allens last week, they said, ‘We refuse to use that pesticide.' "

Omitted and inserted words in a quotation

  • If you leave words out of a quotation, use ellipsis marks to indicate the omission. 

For example: The welfare agency representative said, "We are unable to help every family . . . because we don't have the funds to do so." 

  • If you need to insert something within a quotation, use a pair of brackets.

For example: The welfare agency representative explained that they are "unable to help every family that [they would] like to help."

Block quotations

  • In some styles, quotations that extend more than four typed lines on a page should be indented and punctuated differently.  Punctuation and documentation for these "block quotes" varies according to the style you're writing in, so consult a style guide or handbook for details.

Poetry quotations

  • When you quote two or more lines of poetry, use slash marks within your quotation marks to indicate the end of each line.

For example: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall, / That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it."

Dialogue

Write each person's spoken words, however brief, as a separate paragraph.

Use commas to set off dialogue tags such as "she said" or "he explained."

If one person's speech goes on for more than one paragraph, use quotation marks to open the speech and at the beginning--but not the end--of each new paragraph in the speech. Use quotation marks at the end of the final paragraph.

Titles

  • Use quotation marks around titles of short or minor works, such as songs, short stories, essays, short poems, and one-act plays.
  • Use quotation marks around titles of parts of larger works, such as chapters in books; articles in newspapers, magazines, journals, or other periodical publications; and episodes of television and radio series.
  • Use underlining or italics for titles of major works or works that contain smaller segments such as books; plays of three or more acts; newspapers, magazines, journals, or other periodical publications; films; and television and radio series.

For example: I read "Ways of the West," an article in the Sept. 2 issue of Time.

Unnecessary Quotation Marks

  • Do not put quotation marks around the titles of your essays.
  • Do not use quotation marks for common nicknames, bits of humor, technical terms that readers are likely to know, and trite or well-known expressions.
Indirect quotations are not exact words, but rather paraphrases or summaries of another person's words. Do not use quotation marks for indirect quotations.

Compiled and edited from Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), http://owl.english.purdue.edu