Quotation marks have a variety of uses in addition to indicating dialogue.
For uses of quotation marks in dialogue, see Dialogue Demands Quotation Marks for Exact Spoken Words.
Double quotation marks can be used to identify a variety of intentions:
- words that are not used in their normal way
- words intended to cast doubt
- euphemisms–words that are not to be taken literally but rather understood as a “nice” way to say something
- The English teacher explained the grammar of the sentence: “Martin” is the subject; “tried” is the verb.
- (In this sentence, “Martin” is used to identify his place in the sentence; the same is true for “tried.” The words are not used in the normal way.)
- I never heard of “fake news” until 2016.
- (The intention is to belittle the news we do not want to believe, casting doubt on its truthfulness.)
- So it was an “accident” that he ran into his former employer’s car?
- (casting doubt on the explanation)
- The minister never said that someone had died. Instead, the deceased had “gone to a better place.”
- (Euphemisms are intended to soften the message, to be not so blunt.)
- Twenty years ago, people “died.” Today, they “pass on.”
- (“pass on” is a euphemism for “died.)
Sections of complete works (songs from an album, articles in a magazine, short stories and poems from a collection) are surrounded by quotation marks. The complete works (an album, a magazine, an anthology) should be italicized.
- Johnny Cash’s popular hit, “I Walk the Line,” is in his album With His Hot and Blue Guitar.
- (The song is surrounded by quotation marks. The album is italicized.)
- The Complete Collection of Poems by Edgar Allan Poe includes “The City in the Sea” and “Eulalie.”
- (The title of the book is in italics, and the name of the poem is in quotation marks.)
- “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” is a song from South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
- (As a piece of the larger work, the song is placed in quotation marks. The complete piece is italicized.)
- The chapter, “Churchills’ Historianship,” in Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking People discusses the ability of Churchill as a historian.
- (The chapter is surrounded by quotation marks. The complete book is italicized.)
- Star Trek often engaged in social issues, such as the role of women in “Star Trek: Discovery.” (
- The episode of the series takes quotation marks. The name of the series itself is italicized.)
Technical terms the reader might not know should be placed in quotation marks.
After its first use, quotation marks are no longer necessary.
- A “santur” is a variety of a zither, played by striking the strings with special hammers. My cousin plays a saunter.
- November 1, the day after Halloween, is celebrated in the Catholic Church and others as “All Saints’ Day.” My oldest brother was born on All Saints’ Day.
- The electrician added a “Zener diode” to reverse the current when the voltage exceeded what he felt was safe for the circuit. Unfortunately, the Zener diode was defective.
- The Spanish Riding School in Vienna trains their horses in the old “airs” or exercises of agility from the days of the knights. The “capriole” is one of those movements. A horse doing a capriole almost appears suspended in the air.
When using quotation marks, set the translation off with commas.
- El Día de los Muertos, “The Day of the Dead,” is a family celebration in Mexico.
- El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is a family celebration in Mexico.
- She only knew five words in Japanese: ichi, ni, san, shi, go, “one, two, three, four, five.”
- She only knew five words in Japanese: ichi, ni, san, shi, go (one, two, three, four, five).
- The only words he knew in German were danke sehr, “thank you.” When he learned bitte, “Please,” he felt he had all he needed.
- The only words he knew in German were danke sehr (thank you). When he learned bitte (please), he felt he had all he needed.
The nickname is placed between the first names and the last name and set off with quotation marks.
- Dwight G. “Ike” Eisenhower was elected President after World War II.
- One of the most famous outlaws of the Old West was Henry “Billy the Kid” McCarty.
- Paul William “Bear” Bryant was the well-known head coach of the winning football team at the University of Alabama.
- George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr., became of the first five members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- Phoebe Ann “Annie Oakley” Mosey won her first shooting match at the age of 15.
Formal quotations (not dialogue) are more common in non-fiction than in fiction.
Short quotations (one or two sentences) may be included in the text. They are usually introduced with a sentence ending in a colon.
- You will recognize this famous thought from Hamlet by Shakespeare: “To be or not to be: That is the question, …”
Longer quotations are usually indented and introduced with a colon. They are not surrounded by quotation marks. They may be indented on the left or on both sides.
This is more of his soliloquy, but I’m saving space by not printing the whole.
- Benjamin took second place in the spelling bee because he left out the second “e” in “serviceable.”
- Benjamin took second place in the spelling bee because he left out the second e in serviceable.
- Jesse’s father was delighted to see an “A” on the report card.
- Jesse’s father was delighted to see an A on the report card.
- Are there any other words in the English language with so many “s”s than Mississippi?
- Are there any other words in the English language with so many s’s than Mississippi?
- I can never remember if “assistance” is spelled with an “a” or an “e.” My spell checker says it’s an “a.”
- I can never remember if “assistance” is spelled with an a or an e. My spell checker says it’s an a.
The symbol for “feet” is called a prime (‘). It is made using a single straight quotation mark.
For inches, a double prime (“) uses the double straight quotation marks.
In this case only, the period follows the prime (which looks like a quotation mark).
- The box measured 2’3” by 1’2”.
- According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the height of the tallest man on earth is 8’2.8”. (I wonder how tall his parents are.)
- The math problems required determining the area of a circle with a radius of 3’6″.