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Quotation Marks

23 Aug 2010

The rules for quotation marks vary widely from country to country, even among the English-speaking ones. Here, I will cover the rules as specified by The Chicago Manual of Style because my audience is primarily American.

Direct Quotations

  • Use double quotation marks to enclose a direct quotation.
  • Capitalize the first letter of a direct quotation when the quotation is a complete sentence.
  • If a direct quotation is interrupted mid-sentence, do not capitalize the second part of the quotation.

“If you were in a Disney movie, there would be birds following you and singing,” she said.

“If you were in a Disney movie,” she said, “there would be birds following you and singing.”

“Stop smiling like that,” she said. “You’re scaring me.”

Titles

  • Use double quotation marks to enclose titles of songs, short stories, essays, poems, and articles.

She thought she heard someone humming “Zippity Do Dah.”

  • Titles of books, magazines, and newspapers are italicized or underlined. However, do not use the latter format when posting online as users will assume the title is a hyperlink.

Quotations within Quotations

  • Use single quotation marks to enclose a title, direct quotation, or piece of dialogue that appears within another quotation.

“It is ‘Zippity Do Dah,'” she said.

Commas and Periods

  • When a comma or period appears at the end of a quotation, put it inside the quotation mark.

She went upstairs, following the humming of ‘Zippity Do Dah .'”

Semicolons and Colons

  • When a semicolon or a colon appears at the end of a quotation, put it outside the quotation mark.

The naked man said, “Come in”; she backed up, nearly tripping over her own feet.

Exclamation Points and Question Marks

  • When an exclamation point or question mark appears at the end of a quotation, put it inside the quotation mark if it belongs to the quotation.

She asked, “Where are your clothes?”

  • If the exclamation point or question mark does not belong to the quotation itself, put it outside the quotation mark.

Why was he naked and humming “Zippity Do Dah”?

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