Text: Quotation Marks

an icon showing opening and closing quotation marksThere are three typical ways quotation marks are used. The first is pretty self-explanatory: you use quotation marks when you’re making a direct quote.

  • He said “I’ll never forget you.” It was the best moment of my life.
  • Yogi Berra famously said, “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

The second is when you’re calling attention to a word. For example:

  • I can never say “Worcestershire” correctly.
  • How do you spell “definitely”?

Note: It is this course’s preference to use italics in these instances:

  • I can never say Worcestershire correctly.
  • How do you spell definitely?

However, using quotes is also an accepted practice.

The last use is scare quotes. This is the most misused type of quotation marks. People often think that quotation marks mean emphasis.

  • Buy some “fresh” chicken today!
  • We’ll give it our “best” effort.
  • Employees “must” wash their hands before returning to work.

However, when used this way, the quotation marks insert a silent “so-called” into the sentence, which is often the opposite of the intended meaning.

Where do Quotation Marks Go?

Despite what you may see practiced—especially in advertising, on television, and even in business letters—the fact is that the period and comma go inside the quotation marks all of the time. Confusion arises because the British system is different, and the American system may automatically look wrong to you, but it is simply one of the frequently broken rules of written English in America: The period and comma always go inside the quotation marks.

  • Correct: The people of the pine barrens are often called “pineys.”
  • Incorrect: The people of the pine barrens are often called “pineys”.

However, the semicolon, colon, dash, question mark, and exclamation point fall outside of the quotation marks (unless, of course, the quoted material has internal punctuation of its own).

  • This measurement is commonly known as “dip angle”; dip angle is the angle formed between a normal plane and a vertical.
  • Built only 50 years ago, Shakhtinsk—“minetown”—is already seedy.
  • When she was asked the question “Are rainbows possible in winter?” she answered by examining whether raindrops freeze at temperatures below 0 °C. (Quoted material has its own punctuation.)
  • Did he really say “Dogs are the devil’s henchmen”? (The quote is a statement, but the full sentence is a question.)


Have the following sentences been punctuated correctly?

  1. “Hello Marcelo” Nikola said “How have you been doing”?
  2. “I’m doing well.” he said.
  3. He asked, “What’s new with you?”
  4. My friend told me that “He has a new car.”
  5. The car dealership promised the “best” prices in town!