Uses of Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are used to indicate the beginning and end of a quote. They tell the reader when you've used written material from other sources or direct speech.

Direct quotations

A direct quotation tells the reader when words are taken directly from another text or source.

Use quotation marks at the beginning and end of a direct quotation.

You are the last person on earth I'd ask,” she told him.

When you are incorporating a short quotation into a paper or essay, use quotation marks and quote the wording exactly.

As film critic Pauline Kael writes, “At his greatest, Jean Renoir expresses the beauty in our common humanity—the desires and hopes, the absurdities and follies, that we all, to one degree or another, share.”

In a double‐spaced paper, indent and single‐space direct quotations that are longer than five typed lines. A long quotation should be preceded by a colon and does not need to be enclosed in quotation marks. See the example in the following section.

Quotations within quotations

Use single quotation marks within double ones to indicate a quotation within a quotation.

My father began by saying, 'I refuse to listen to any excuses,'” he told the psychiatrist.

If you are indenting and single spacing a long quotation, use the same punctuation marks that appear in the original passage. In this example, the writer is quoting a passage from the critic Martin Esslin, who in turn is quoting the playwright Ionesco.

Martin Esslin describes Ionesco's attitude toward spontaneity in this passage:

Ionesco regards spontaneity as an important creative element. “ I have no ideas before I write a play. I have them when I have written the play or while I am not writing at all. I believe that artistic creation is spontaneous. It certainly is so for me.” But this does not mean that he considers his writing to be meaningless or without significance. On the contrary, the workings of the spontaneous imagination are a cognitive process, an exploration.

Miscellaneous uses of quotation marks

There are a few other situations that call for quotation marks.

To distance yourself from an offensive term or expression (quoting someone else).

The disappointed body builder blamed the “fat slobs” who judged the contest.

To refer to a word as a word.

She repeatedly used the term “irregardless,” not realizing that no such word exists.

To indicate a nickname written as part of a formal name.

Ray “Shorty” Johannsen was the unanimous choice for committee chair.

To set off titles of poems, essays, and articles that are part of a longer work. (For this use, as for bibliographical and footnote information, check to see whether you are required to use a specific style guide for your writing.)