Using quotation marks – single or double?

People sometimes get confused about whether to use single or double quotation marks (also known as ‘inverted commas’).

The answer, as with so many things when it comes to proofreading, is that it’s up to you, as long as you are consistent.

You will probably want to use different types of quotation marks for reported speech, and for other uses.

Example

Mary wanted to know about the famous ‘Loch Ness Monster’. “Well,” answered Fergus, “it’s quite a long story.”

This examples uses double quotation marks where Fergus is speaking, but single to refer to an common idea – in the same way that, at the beginning of this blog, I referred to ‘inverted commas’ – this is what some people call them, but they’re more correctly referred to as quotation marks.

Quotes within quotes

It’s also a good idea to use different types of quotation marks for quotes within other quotes. For example, you might have decided that your main style is to use double quotation marks, so when you have a quote within a quote, you would use single quotation marks.

Example

“I asked Mr Ducker about it on Thursday,” Julie told me, “and he said ‘never you mind!’ I thought he was very rude.”

For tight, clear, writing, it’s best to avoid too many quotes within quotes, as it can get confusing.

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