Primary Teaching Tips Quotation Marks

The use of quotation marks awakens dialogue in a story, short story or flash fiction and immediately causes the person who is speaking to ‘come to life’. Quotation marks help to reinforce the communication power of the written word.

Knowing how to use quotation marks properly can make a huge difference for freelance writers. The correct use of quotation marks is part of basic grammar but helps to improve Internet content, thus increasing search engine optimization (SEO) and potential readership.

What are quotation marks?

The freedictionary.com suggests that quotation marks are “a pair of punctuation marks used primarily to mark the beginning and end of a passage attributed to another and repeated word for word.”

Quotation marks or inverted commas are in pairs. They may be single inverted commas that emphasize a word or phrase in a sentence or double inverted commas depicting speech or quoting a source like the title of a book.   

“Single quotation marks are usually reserved for setting off a quotation within another quotation.”

Note that both of the above quotations come from a direct source and are in double quotation marks.

If there is a word that needs emphasis inside a quotation, single quotation marks are appropriate.

In a sentence where the meaning of a word is important, for example, ‘glosses’, single quotation marks are appropriate. When something is dubious or questionable, for example, “The city was only 500 miles away, or so he ‘said’…“, then single quotation marks give added emphasis.   

Including single quotation marks inside a set of double quotation marks often appears awkward, but the use of several periods at the end of a sentence or prior to the final quotation mark indicates an unfinished statement or creates a pause, making reading easier.  

Using double quotation marks several times in a dialogue allows the interruption and continuation of what a person is stating.   

Consider the following example.

“There is no doubt that spring is on the way,” the young weatherman suggested. “But the birds we see often give us a better weather forecast.” 

“You are a weatherman, but you think nature is more reliable than science?” questioned the stodgy, old man. “You are right, you know.”

“I knew that would please him,” thought the weatherman, grinning inwardly.

“That is a smart young man,” decided the old man, smiling, as he left the room.

Spacing is as important as quotation marks. When one person is finished ‘speaking’, allowing a break for the reader before another speaker begins his or her response allows the reader to follow the dialogue. The use of spacing in conjunction with double quotation marks serves a double purpose by separating each statement, as well as each person involved in the dialogue.

When writing it is often a good idea to re-read a written dialogue and make sure it depicts an actual conversation. The correct use of single and double quotation marks will prove beneficial in bringing dialogue to life.

Proper use of quotation marks invariably leads to more professional freelance writing.