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Quotation mark

Quotation marks, also called quotes or inverted commas, are punctuation marks used to set off speech, a quotation, or a phrase. They have a variety of forms in different languages and in different media.

Table of contents

Usage

Quotations & speech

An opening quotation mark should appear at the beginning of each paragraph of the quoted text and a closing quotation mark at the end of the last only.

A closing quotation mark is used before, and an opening quotation mark after, phrases such as he said that interrupt speech.

British and United States style differs as to whether single or double quotation marks are used, but neither is an absolute rule, and a publisher’s or even an author’s style may take precedence. (The only absolute rule is consistency!) Although illogical, the American convention is for sentence punctuation to be included inside the quotation marks, even if the punctuation is not part of the quoted sentence:

‘Good morning, Dave,’ said HAL.
“Good morning, Dave,” said HAL.

The British style is to have the punctuation where it belongs logically, for small quoted phrases:

Someone shouted ‘Shut up!’.
Also called ‘plain quotes’, they are teardrops.

However, despite what is sometimes written on discussions of punctuation, British positioning is the same as American in complete quoted speech:

‘Good morning, Dave,’ said HAL.

In some subject areas (such as software documentation and chemistry), it is conventional to include only what is part of the quoted phrase within the quotes, for clarity:

Enter the URL as "www.wikipedia.org", the name as "Wikipedia", and click "OK".

For speech within speech:

‘HAL said, “Good morning, Dave”,’ said Frank.
“HAL said, ‘Good morning, Dave’,” said Frank.

Do not use quotation marks for paraphrased speech:

WRONG: HAL said that “Everything was going extremely well.”
RIGHT: HAL said that everything was going extremely well.

Emphasis and scare quotes

Another important usage of quotation makes is to indicate or call attention to ironic or apologetic words, in a tactic sometimes called scare quotes.

He claimed he was too "busy" to vist me.

Titles of artistic works

Quotation marks, rather than italics, are generally used for the titles of shorter works. Whether these are single or double is again a matter of style:

  • short fiction, poetry, etc.: Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Sentinel”
  • book chapters: The first chapter of 3001: The Final Odyssey is “Comet Cowboy”
  • articles in books, magazines, journals, etc.: “Extra-Terrestrial Relays”, Wireless World, October 1945
  • album tracks, singles, etc.: David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”

See also Wikipedia:Manual of Style.

Glyphs

A list of glyphs used as quotation marks and their Unicode (and HTML) values and names follows. (Warning: Some of these glyphs may not display properly in older browsers, which may substitute other sorts or a square.)

Straight quotes

These are used in rapid writing and with the Internet.

Sample Unicode (decimal) HTML entity Description
'O'
x0027 (39)   Apostrophe (single quote)
"O"
x0022 (34)   Straight quotation mark (double quote)

Curved quotes in English

Also called "book quotes", they look like 6 (six) and 9 (nine) with the circles filled. They are preferred in formal writing and with correct typography.

Curved quotes are also sometimes referred to as "smart quotes", in reference to the name of a function found in word processors like Microsoft Word that automatically converts straight quotes typed by the user into curved quotes; this is a misnomer, as it is not the quotes themselves that are "smart" but the function which is able to correctly determine (most of the time) whether to use a right-curving or a left-curving glyph in any particular case.

Samples Unicode (decimal) HTML entities Description
‘O’
x2018 (8216), x2019 (8217) ‘ ’ Single quotes (left and right)
“O”
x201c (8220), x201d (8221) “ ” Double quotes (left and right)

Variants of and are:

– x'201B' (HTML: ‛) – single high-reversed-9, or single reversed comma, quotation mark
– x'201F' (HTML: ‟) – double high-reversed-9, or double reversed comma, quotation mark

Curved quotes in German

Confusingly, what is the "left quote" in English is used as the right quote in German, and a different "low 9 quote" is used for the left instead:

Samples Unicode (decimal) HTML entities Description
‚O‘
x201a (8218), x2018 (8216) ‚ ‘ German single quotes (left and right)
„O“
x201d (8221), x201e (8222) „ “ German double quotes (left and right)

Angle quotes in French and Russian

Some languages, such as French or Russian, use angle quotation marks or guillemets and add space within the quotes, as in:

Est-ce que vous aimez ma ponctuation, Henri?

Although not common in Dutch in general, double angle quotation marks are used in Dutch government publications. Sometimes, these are used in German publications also, but rather rarely, and then exactly reversed and without spacing.

Samples Unicode (decimal) HTML entities Description
‹ O ›
x2039 (8249), x203a (8250) ‹ › French single angle quotes (left and right)
« O »
x00AB (171), x00BB (187) « » French double angle quotes (left and right)

Other languages

In some East Asian languages, you might see the following quotation marks:

– x'300C' (HTML: 「) – Left quotation mark
– x'300D' (HTML: 」) – Right quotation mark

The quotation mark is called "introductory mark" (引號 yin3 hao4) in Chinese, and "hooked inclusive bows" (Kanji: 鉤括弧 ; hiragana: かぎかっこ kagikakko) in Japanese.

For quote-within-quote, double quotes are used:

– (HTML: 『) – Left double quotation mark
– (HTML: 』) – Right double quotation mark

They are called shuang yin hao (雙引號) in Chinese, and nijyuu kagikakko (二重鉤括弧) in Japanese.

See Also Double quote



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