Do you know how to quote (cite) someone in your writing- whether in business, academia or in informal situations? Knowing how to use quotation marks – these -> “….” can help you write clearly and talk about what other people have said. They’re an extremely useful part of writing, so it’s important to know how to use quotation marks correctly.

Whether you’re a student who is learning about quotation marks for the first time, or a native speaker who wants a refresher (to review, learn again) on how to use quotation marks properly, keep reading to find out how to use them correctly in your writing.

What are Quotation Marks?

Firstly, quotation marks are used in writing to talk about something that was said exactly. This could be something that was said in conversation, in the newspaper, on TV, or in a movie. Anything you write about that was said by someone else, and if you want to use someone else’s exact words, you should put that quote (what was said) in quotation marks.

Open up your favorite novel and you’ll see that there are quotation marks everywhere! This is because a lot of different characters talk in novels, and it’s important to indicate that someone is talking.

For example:

  • “I’m hungry,” she said.
  • The newsperson said, “Traffic is backed up on I-81 this morning.”

Quotation Marks with Semicolons, Colons, and Dashes

Semicolons (;), colons (:), and dashes (-) are the easiest punctuation marks to use with quotation marks. You won’t see them very often, but it’s good to know for the occasion (time) when you do.

If you need to use a semicolon, colon, or dash with quotation marks, they are always placed outside of the last quotation mark.

For example:

  • I said, “I don’t think it’s going to rain today”– right before the first drops started falling.
  • His favorite poem was “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”; he had spent months learning it by heart.
  • At the wedding, he quoted his favorite line from “Sonnet 18”: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.”

Question Marks and Exclamation Points

When using question marks (?) and exclamation points (!) with quotation marks, whether they go inside or outside of the quotes depends on the quote itself.

If the question mark or exclamation point is part of the quotation itself, the punctuation mark goes inside the quotation marks. If the punctuation mark is not part of the quote, it goes outside of the quotation marks.

For example:

  • The girl asked, “Can we get some ice cream?”
  • Her dad said, “Yes, we can get some ice cream!”
  • She asked, “Did you like the movie?”
  • He said, “No, I hated it!”
  • Why do you like “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”?
  • Don’t you love “Sonnet 18”?
  • You lied to me about the ending of “MacBeth”!
  • Let’s go see “Fight Club”!

Commas and Periods

Where commas and periods belong (go, should be put) in quotation marks depends on where you’re from. In UK English, the comma and period can go inside or outside the quotation marks. In American English, periods and commas always go inside the quotation marks.

For example:

  • I said, “I want to go to the movies on Saturday.”
  • She said, “We’re going to Portugal in October.”
  • “Let’s go on Friday instead,” he replied.
  • “I bet you’ll have a lot of fun,” she said.

While some believe that quotation marks and punctuation (general use of marks) is confusing and difficult, it’s actually quite easy when you get the hang of it. Let us know your thoughts on how to use quotation marks in the comments below!

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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and is an avid reader, and therefore *very* aware of how to use quotation marks properly!

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