Punctuation : Quotation Mark

The Quotation Mark ( “…”) & ( ‘…’) is also called an Inverted Comma. It consists of the double and the single quotation marks as shown above. This mark is used either to mark the beginning and the end of quotation or title or to indicate slang usage or words that are jargon.

The most common use is to tell the reader the exact words spoken by a person, which is called direct quotation.

For Example:

• He told me, “I will come to work an hour late today”.

The above sentence is direct quote. As an indirect quote, it would be stated in this way.

• He told me that he would come to work an hour late today.

In the above example, the quotation marks are not used since it is an indirect statement. Although both sentences convey exactly the same meaning, in the first instance it is said that the person quoted has spoken directly.

In common writing, only the double quotation marks is used. However, in the print media, both the double and single quotation marks are used depending upon the context in which they are used.

The usage in Britain and America differs, but we shall restrict ourselves to one kind only. Single quotes are usually used to indicate a quote with a quote or to indicate that the person quoted has expressed a sentiment mentally rather than verbally.

For instance:

• “Seethe told, ‘why should I help you out,’” Rajesh informed Hamish.

In the above sentence, Rajesh speaks directly to Hamish and tell him what Seethe told him. Therefore, Seethe’s directly quoted words are used in single quotation marks.

The simple rule of thump is that if the direct quotes are in double quotation marks, any quote within this quote will be in single quotation marks.

The rule will also apply vice versa, i.e., a direct quote in single quotation marks that includes another quote within would then have the inclusive quote in double quotation marks.

The common error made with quotation marks is that users tend to put the punctuation marks after closing the quotes.


. He was furious and told me, “Get lost”!

The above sentence with the punctuation marks is incorrect. The correct usage would be with the exclamation mark coming before the quotes are closed.

. He was furious and told me, “Get lost!”

The only time one could use the punctuation mark after the quotes is when the quote is incomplete.

. Gila was furious and swore that she would get even with me “at all cost”.

In this example, Gila’s words have not been quoted directly or completely. Just few of her words have been quoted word for word and are indicated in double quotes. In such instances, closing the double quote after the punctuation mark would be incorrect. The above rules reflect the usual usage.

When quoted words are broken up or interrupted by reporting verb such as say, said, told, informed etc., the quotation marks would be given in this manner.

• “What I would love to have,” Ram told Seta, “is a steaming hot cup of coffee.”

In this instance, note the usage of the commas before closing the first double quote and after Seta, since both sentences connect the same thought. However, if they were two independent thoughts, the sentence would be written in this manner.


• “There was something that I would love to have,” Ram told Seta. “And that is steaming hot cup of coffee.”

The beauty of the above example, though, lies in the fact that it could be used following the rules of the previous example and would still not read amiss, purely because the conjunctive word and has been used.

• “There was something that I would love to have,” Ram told Seta, “and that is steaming hot cup of coffee.”

Another rule to remember with quotes (which is a common error even media pundits and editors make) is that when a person is speaking and it runs several paragraphs, successive paragraphs will all have the opening mark, but the closing mark will only be used in the last paragraph. Closing the mark after each paragraph when the same person is speaking is incorrect and will create confusion in the reader’s mind whether the same person is speaking or different persons have been quoted.

Single or double marks are also used to indicate the title of a movie, book, article, poem, serial, etc. In such instances, there is no fixed rule and depending on personal preference or an in-house style, single or double marks mat be used.

However, there are many who prefer not to use these marks to indicate titles and instead use italics for this purpose.

Single or double marks are also used when indicating slang terms and jargon or words from other languages other than English.

from Quotation Mark to Punctuation Index


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