- Placement of Periods and Commas with Quotation Marks
- Quotation Marks with signal tags
- Question Marks and exclamation points
- Fragmentary quotation
- Use of an ellipsis
- Quoting for more than four lines
- Quotation Marks for titles of short works
- Quotation Marks with words used in a special way
- Single quotation marks
- Test Yourself
There are three rules for using quotation marks:
- around quotes
- around titles of short, published works
- around words used in a special way.
Here are some examples:
- “It will rain today,” he said. Not “It will rain today“, he said. (Quote)
- The students had a choice of two articles to read: “The American Economy in 2012″ or “The Effect of Sunspots on Earth’s Weather.” (Title of short, published work)
- He “relaxed” by climbing mountains and running marathons. (Words used in a special way)
Quotation marks with quotes
Use quotation marks around exact words from someone else.
Use a comma or commas to separate a signal tag from a quote. A signal tag is also called an identifying tag or identifying words. They are words that say who says the quote. A signal tag consists only of words that say who says the quote.
Note that there is a rule that says to use a comma or a period next to an end quotation mark, put the period or comma before, not after, the end quotation mark:
- Signal words can go at the end:
“It will rain today,” he said.
The words he said are the signal tag.
- Signal words can come in the middle:
“It will,” he said, “rain today.”
See how two commas are used to separate the signal tag from the quote.
- Signal words can also come at the beginning.
He said, “It will rain today.”
Notice that after a signal tag, what is in the quote is considered to be a sentence, so the first letter is capitalized.
A signal tag is limited to words that say who says the quote. When more words are added before the quote, the quote becomes fragmentary – a partial sentence quote.
One example is the use of the word that before a quote. Then, the quoted words would be part of a sentence started outside the quote.
He said that “it would rain today.”
The word that changes words that would have been a signal tag into words that are just part of a sentence. What is inside the quote is a continuation of a sentence. See how there is no comma and the first letter is not capitalized.
No commas next to question marks or exclamation points, not even to separate out signal tags.
“It will rain today!” he exclaimed.
He exclaimed, “It will rain today!”
“Will it rain today?” he asked.
He asked , “Will it rain today?”
Question marks and exclamation points next to end quotation marks.
When a quote is a question or an exclamation, the question mark or the exclamation point is part of the quote and belongs before the end quotation mark:
She asked, “Will it rain today?”
The student shouted, “I passed the final test. I’m graduating!”
When there is a quote in a sentence which is a question or an exclamation, the question mark or the exclamation point belongs at the end of the sentence, not the end of the quote.
Is there a specific reason for the “feelings of unhappiness” you describe?
She twirled with “unbridled joy” around the room!
This is true even if the quoted words are at the end of the sentence:
Is there a reason for these “feelings of unhappiness“?
She twirled with “unbridled joy“!
Quotation marks and fragmentary quotes
With a fragmentary quotation (not a complete sentence), do not use a comma before the quote nor a capital to start the quote.
He referred to his opponent as a “lily-livered coward of the highest degree.”
Omission within quotation marks – use of ellipsis
Full quote: Jim Carrey said, “I got a lot of support from my parents when I was pursuing my career in comedy. They didn’t tell me I was being stupid; they told me I was being funny.”
Quote with omission: Jim Carrey said, “I got a lot of support from my parents .… They didn’t tell me I was being stupid; they told me I was being funny.”
See how the ellipsis is inserted where the words when I was pursuing my career in comedy were omitted.
Brackets in quotation marks
- Jim Carrey said, “I got a lot of support from my parents .… They didn’t tell me I was being stupid; they told me I was being funny.”
Note that there are four periods: the ellipsis consisting of three periods and a period to end the sentence since this ellipsis happens to be at the end of a sentence.
Note that there are not brackets around the ellipsis. Brackets are used in quotes to show changes made by the author of the writing who is using the quoted material. The ellipsis itself indicates that a change was made by omitting some words. Brackets around an ellipsis is only used when the quote itself has brackets to distinguish between what was omitted by the writer of the quote and the writer using the quote.
Quotation marks and ellipsis (…)
Don’t use an ellipsis at the beginning of a quote. Only use an ellipsis at the end when the quote does not complete a sentence (an unusual situation).
- Incorrect: A tsunami does give brief warning since “…the water recedes from the shore.”
- Correct: A tsunami does give brief warning since “the water recedes from the shore.”
Example of situation where ellipsis would be used at the of quote: The terrified man began to describe the disaster: “The wind was howling and the rain beating furiously when….”
Note that this use of ellipsis only applies when a sentence is not finished in the quote, not when you don’t use a whole sentence from the source. If you use part of a sentence from a quote which is still a sentence, don’t use the ellipsis.
No quotation marks with long indented quotes
If you are quoting more than four lines (not sentences), you need to set the quote off from the text. Indent the quote one inch from the left margin, and do not use quotation marks. The quote should be double spaced as with the rest of the paper.
Helen Keller, though born both deaf and blind, was no coward. This can be seen in her views on the worth of life:
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature,
nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding
danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
Use quotation marks for the titles of short, published works
Short, published works are items that are usually published in a larger work or collection such as articles from periodicals (journals, newspapers, and magazines), songs, poems, and pages from Web sites.
|“An Empathetic Approach to Nursing”||(journal article)|
|“Bad to the Bone”||(song title)|
|“A Supermarket in California”||(poem)|
|“Jurassic Undertakers”||(page in a Web site)|
Use italics for longer works such as books, plays, periodicals (journals, magazines, and newspapers), entire Web sites, and online databases.
|My Fair Lady||(play)|
|Academic Search Complete||(online database)|
These examples use the MLA format of capitalizing the first letter of the title and all important words. Unimportant words which do not need to be capitalized are articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), and prepositions including in, on, at, and of. In APA, only the first letter of the title and any proper nouns are capitalized.
Specific information for using quotes for in-text citations can be found in either the MLA or APA section.
Quotation marks with words used in a special way
When a word or words are used in a different way than the dictionary definition or the common usage, they are considered words used in a special way. These are words you could use the term so-called in front of.
- His so-called retirement consisted of volunteering for two different charities and the homeowners’ association.
- His “retirement” consisted of volunteering for two different charities and the homeowners’ association.
- Her so-called ordinary morning routine consisted of jogging two miles, feeding the dogs, putting in a load of laundry, and checking e-mail.
- Her “ordinary” morning routine consisted of jogging two miles, feeding the dogs, putting in a load of laundry, and checking e-mail.
Note that the term so-called and quotation marks are not used together. Use one or the other.
No quotation marks for irony or sarcasm
Words used for irony or sarcasm should not be in quotation marks. Ironic use of words is meant to convey the opposite of the literal definition. Words used in a special way are when a different- than-usual meaning of the word is intended to be conveyed.
Here’s an example of irony:
- After hearing the vulgar outburst from the unhappy constituent, the councilwoman said, “Thank you for your civil comments.”
She didn’t literally mean civil. She meant the opposite of civil.
Here’s an example of the word used in a special way.
- In civil society, a verbal assault is not considered criminal unless it amounts to disorderly conduct.
The thought that is conveyed might be ironic, but the use of the word in this sentence is in a special way and not the opposite of what it literally means.
Single Quotation marks
Single quotation marks are only used when you have to put quotation marks inside quotation marks:
- The professor said, “Read the article entitled ‘How to Grow Hydroponic Tomatoes.’” Notice how the period at the end goes before both the single quotation mark and the regular (double) quotation mark.