Punctuation Marks: Quotation Marks

Quotation marks enclose a direct quotation that is the repetition of someone’s exact words.

    • “Keep your head down and charge!” the coach said.
    • Her exact words were, “Bake the bread at 350 degrees.”

Indirect quotations do not take quotation marks.

    • The coach said to keep your head down and charge.
    • She told us to bake the bread at 350 degrees.

Punctuation with Quotation Marks

Commas and periods are always placed inside the quotation marks even if the quoted material is contained within the sentence.

    • She thinks we’re “off the wall,” but I think our idea will work.
    • We’ve heard him say a thousand times, “Waste not, want not.”
    • “Tell me something I’ll remember forever,” she said.
    • You’ve read the poem “Ash Wednesday,” haven’t you?

Semicolons and colons are always placed outside the quotation marks.

    • Look up the title under “Animated Cartoons”; copy the cartoon features listed there.
    • The following animals are considered “marsupials”: kangaroo, wombat, koala.

Question marks and exclamation points are placed inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material. Otherwise, they are placed outside the quotation marks. Only one end mark is used at the end of a sentence containing quoted material.

    • Have you read the report “The Over-Scheduled Child”? (The entire sentence is the question; the end mark comes after the final quotation mark.)
    • He sent Irene the article “Why Can’t Ivan Compute?” (The title is a question; the end mark comes before the final quotation mark.)
    • “Dinner is ready!” he called.
    • I can’t believe they want us to increase sales “by 20 percent”!

Brief and Long Quotations

Quoted material that is only two or three lines long is enclosed in quotation marks and included as part of the regular text.

    • The movie critic was blunt about her reactions to the film. She stated that it “has the intelligence of a jellyfish and as much reality as a Survivor series.”

Longer quotations have no quotation marks and are set off from the rest of the text.

    • The movie critic was blunt about her reactions to the film.

      This movie should suffer an early and merciful death. It has the intelligence of a jellyfish and as much reality as a Survivor series. I don’t know what the director intended for this film; but unless it was to bore us to death, he has certainly failed.

Single Quotation Marks

Single quotation marks are used to set off a quote within a quote.

    • Carla said, “Every time I hear the song ‘Into the West’ I want to cry.”
    • “When I asked him what he needed, he replied, ‘A passport.’”


Quotation marks are used to enclose the titles of articles, chapters of books, poems, reports, many governmental publications, short stories, individual songs, workshop or conference titles, and titles of proceedings.

    • “Ballad of the Sad Cafe” is required reading in most college literature programs.
    • The song “Somewhere over the Rainbow” was almost left out of the classic movie The Wizard of Oz.
    • Read the chapter “How Diet Affects Immune Functions” before you change your eating habits too much.
    • The report “Equality in the Workplace: A Ten-Year Study” shows how much work still needs to be done.
    • Billy Collins’ poem “Study in Orange and White” appears in one of his recent collections.
    • The IEEE international conference focused on the theme “Nanotechnology: Practical Applications.”
    • Throughout the weekend, we will offer two workshops titled “Living with Stress” and “Getting Control of Your Finances.”

Terms and Expressions

Use quotation marks to enclose terms and expressions that are considered odd or unusual (slang terms in a formal report) or that are likely to be unknown to the reader (jargon, technical terms).

    • The President told reporters he regarded his opponent as a “flip-flopper.”
    • Not many people know the functions of “T cells” or “B cells” in the immune system.
    • Scott said he was as full as a “bug-eyed tick.” The term “blog” should be defined in your book.