Skills to Develop
- Identify the uses of quotes.
- Correctly use quotes in sentences.
Quotation marks (“ ”) set off a group of words from the rest of the text. Use quotation marks to indicate direct quotations of another person’s words or to indicate a title. Quotation marks always appear in pairs.
A direct quotation is an exact account of what someone said or wrote. To include a direct quotation in your writing, enclose the words in quotation marks. An indirect quotation is a restatement of what someone said or wrote. An indirect quotation does not use the person’s exact words. You do not need to use quotation marks for indirect quotations.
Direct quotation: Carly said, “I’m not ever going back there again.”
Indirect quotation: Carly said that she would never go back there.
Writing at Work
Most word processing software is designed to catch errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. While this can be a useful tool, it is better to be well acquainted with the rules of punctuation than to leave the thinking to the computer. Properly punctuated writing will convey your meaning clearly. Consider the subtle shifts in meaning in the following sentences:
- The client said he thought our manuscript was garbage.
- The client said, “He thought our manuscript was garbage.”
The first sentence reads as an indirect quote in which the client does not like the manuscript. But did he actually use the word “garbage”? (This would be alarming!) Or has the speaker paraphrased (and exaggerated) the client’s words?
The second sentence reads as a direct quote from the client. But who is “he” in this sentence? Is it a third party?
Word processing software would not catch this because the sentences are not grammatically incorrect. However, the meanings of the sentences are not the same. Understanding punctuation will help you write what you mean, and in this case, could save a lot of confusion around the office!
Punctuating Direct Quotations
Quotation marks show readers another person’s exact words. Often, you will want to identify who is speaking. You can do this at the beginning, middle, or end of the quote. Notice the use of commas and capitalized words.
Beginning: Madison said, “Let’s stop at the farmers market to buy some fresh vegetables for dinner.”
Middle: “Let’s stop at the farmers market,” Madison said, “to buy some fresh vegetables for dinner.”
End: “Let’s stop at the farmers market to buy some fresh vegetables for dinner,” Madison said.
Speaker not identified: “Let’s stop at the farmers market to buy some fresh vegetables for dinner.”
Always capitalize the first letter of a quote even if it is not the beginning of the sentence. When using identifying words in the middle of the quote, the beginning of the second part of the quote does not need to be capitalized.
Use commas between identifying words and quotes. Quotation marks must be placed aftercommas and periods. Place quotation marks after question marks and exclamation points only if the question or exclamation is part of the quoted text.
Question is part of quoted text: The new employee asked, “When is lunch?”
Question is not part of quoted text: Did you hear her say you were “the next Picasso”?
Exclamation is part of quoted text: My supervisor beamed, “Thanks for all of your hard work!”
Exclamation is not part of quoted text: He said I “single-handedly saved the company thousands of dollars”!
Quotations within Quotations
Use single quotation marks (‘ ’) to show a quotation within in a quotation.
Theresa said, “I wanted to take my dog to the festival, but the man at the gate said, ‘No dogs allowed.’”
“When you say, ‘I can’t help it,’ what exactly does that mean?”
“The instructions say, ‘Tighten the screws one at a time.’”
Use quotation marks around titles of short works of writing, such as essays, songs, poems, short stories, and chapters in books. Usually, titles of longer works, such as books, magazines, albums, newspapers, and novels, are italicized.
“Annabelle Lee” is one of my favorite romantic poems.
The New York Times has been in publication since 1851.
Writing at Work
In many businesses, the difference between exact wording and a paraphrase is extremely important. For legal purposes, or for the purposes of doing a job correctly, it can be important to know exactly what the client, customer, or supervisor said. Sometimes, important details can be lost when instructions are paraphrased. Use quotes to indicate exact words where needed, and let your coworkers know the source of the quotation (client, customer, peer, etc.).
Copy the following sentences onto your own sheet of paper, and correct them by adding quotation marks where necessary. If the sentence does not need any quotation marks, write OK.
Yasmin said, I don’t feel like cooking. Let’s go out to eat.
Where should we go? said Russell.
Yasmin said it didn’t matter to her.
I know, said Russell, let’s go to the Two Roads Juice Bar.
Perfect! said Yasmin.
Did you know that the name of the Juice Bar is a reference to a poem? asked Russell.
I didn’t! exclaimed Yasmin. Which poem?
The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost Russell explained.
Oh! said Yasmin, Is that the one that starts with the line, Two roads diverged in a yellow wood?
That’s the one said Russell.
- Use quotation marks to enclose direct quotes and titles of short works.
- Use single quotation marks to enclose a quote within a quote.
- Do not use any quotation marks for indirect quotations.