When writing a student paper or professional document, it is important to know how to properly use quotation marks. For citation purposes when adding in-text citations, please consult the appropriate citation guide (APA, MLA, Chicago, or other).
Here are general rules and guidelines to follow when using quotation marks.
Use quotation marks to enclose direct quotations. Exact words that a person uses, whether said aloud or written, must be in quotation marks.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Do not use quotation marks around paraphrased material, which is a report of someone’s ideas without using the person’s exact words.
Benjamin Franklin felt that saving money is an important thing to do.
Set off long quotations of poetry or prose by indenting. When a quotation runs more than four typed lines in your paper, you should indent the entire passage one-inch from the left margin and not use quotation marks. The indentation format lets your readers know the entire passage is quoted word for word from the source. Typically, you should include an introduction signaling the quote.
Use single quotations to set off a quotation within a quotation. If you are quoting someone who in turn is quoting someone else, enclose the second quotation with single quotation marks.
John Smith said, “My brother James said to me, ‘Always watch out for the pot holes along M-15.’ It’s a good thing I listened to him.”
Use quotation marks around the titles of shorter works such as newspaper and magazine titles, poems, chapters of books, short stories, and songs.
Sharon’s favorite poem is “The Road Not Taken.”
Use quotation marks to set off words mentioned in a sentence as words.
The words “accept” and “except” are often confused.
Use quotation marks to call a word into question.
“Beauty” means different things to different people.
He was “working” in Las Vegas last weekend.
Periods and commas: Place periods and commas at the end of quotations inside the quotation marks—the only exception would be when you have a citation afterwards, in which case the period or comma would go after the citation.
Colons and semicolons: Put colons and semicolons at the end of quotations outside the quotation marks.
Question marks and exclamation points: Put question marks and exclamation points inside quotation marks unless they apply to the whole sentence.
Suzy asked, “Mommy, can we go to the toy store now?”
Have you heard the expression, “A penny saved is a penny earned”?