To help you produce great-looking documents, Microsoft loaded Word with smart quotes, a feature that automatically changes straight quotation.
Quotations marks (“”) are parts of punctuation that we use to identify quotations, direct speech, and to highlight special words and phrases. We also use them for titles of certain things, and to point out dialogue in works of fiction. Sometimes, they are called “quotations” or “speech marks.” Either way, they are a very important type of punctuation!
This article will discuss the way we use quotation marks in American English—but, it’s important to note that in British English and other languages, quotation marks follow different rules.
Quotation marks are very useful. Here are some ways you see them every day:
We use quotation marks for all kinds of things in writing and literature, like sharing quotations, adding emphasis, expressing dialogue, and identifying titles.
One of the most important ways we use quotations is to “quote” someone’s or something’s words. To quote something means to repeat exactly what was said. For example, we use it to show direct speech, meaning exactly what someone said:
This same idea can also show quotations from pieces of literature, television, radio, and so on:
Quotations can help us separate a word or phrase from the rest of a sentence, showing that something has an important meaning, like this:
Here, “red alert” is in quotations because it highlights specific, important term. Likewise, “Do Not Disturb” shows that the sign had an important message.
Next, quotation marks can show that the word inside the marks has a special meaning besides its normal definition, like slang. The marks tell the reader that the word is being talked about, not used as part of the sentence. This helps share a new or unusual idea that some people might not understand:
These quotation marks tell us that “likes” is actually a special term for something you can do on Instagram. Without quotation marks, “likes” wouldn’t make sense here. Likewise, “planking” and “selfies” are words used to show a trend.
What’s more, quotation marks are used to apply a normal idea to something new, like this:
Here, both sets of quotation marks above highlight an idea that we can picture in our heads. Although fries aren’t made from chicken, putting “fries” in quotations shows us that the chicken looks like french fries, not that there are real french fries. Likewise, “chicken nuggets” show that the food is similar to chicken nuggets, but made from soy.
Quotation marks can also show dialogue (speaking) of a person or character. It’s different than showing direct quotations, because dialogue shows a conversation that the reader can witness. So, that makes quotation marks very important for fiction. Here’s an example:
Without quotation marks, it would be very difficult to ever know when a character was speaking!
Finally, another important way we use quotation marks is to show titles of things. Here’s a list of things that should be inside quotation marks:
Furthermore, you should NOT use quotation marks for book titles, movie titles, or any longer work that has smaller sections in it—for these things, we use italics or underlining.
When it comes to punctuation, there are a lot of little rules for quotation marks to follow, and it can get confusing. Here are some rules to help you (for American English!):
Periods and commas go INSIDE quotation marks, even when they aren’t part of a direct quote or title:
Colons, semicolons, and long dashes go OUTSIDE quotation marks:
Exclamation marks and question marks can be tricky. If one is part of a direct quote or title, then they go inside the quotation marks, like this:
But, if it’s not part of a direct quote, title, or phrase, then the exclamation mark or question mark goes outside of the quotation marks:
As mentioned earlier, the rules for quotation marks are different in different places. For example, in British English, periods and commas go outside of quotation marks, so don’t be surprised if you see that in a work of British literature, or from a British newspaper.
Quotation marks are common, and so are mistakes involving them! For instance, they always come in sets—don’t make the mistake of just using one set and forgetting the other!
Actually, the biggest problems come when you use them with other punctuation marks, as outlined in the last section. But, if you use them to single out words or phrases that don’t need them, you can end up with some pretty silly or confusing sentences!
Using quotation marks to add stress or importance to a word is an all too common mistake. People often think they should use it to add stress to a word or make it stand out, like this:
As you can see, using quotation marks is not a good way to make “must” stand out! In this way, it makes it seem that has a different meaning other than it’s true meaning. That may make people think that they don’t actually need to wash their hands!
When you need to add stress to a word, the best choice is usually to use bold or CAPITAL letters, or underline the words you mean to emphasize, like this:
Now the meaning of this note is very clear! Here’s another example:
Define quotation marks (noun) and get synonyms. What is the symbols ' and ' used in writing before and after a quotation or the words that someone speaks.
‘Words for punctuation,’ Lynne Murphy writes in her new book The Prodigal Tongue, ‘offer a neat little laboratory for viewing the possible fates of migrating words.’
When North America was being settled, norms of punctuation, including the marks’ names, were very much in flux. So when things stabilized, the names in the US and the UK sometimes differed. Certain marks, such as the comma and question mark, acquired the same name in both regions; others, such as the full stop (period, full point), diverged.
The latter group also includes quotation marks, aka inverted commas. But the facts are more complicated – and therefore more interesting – than is generally supposed. Here’s Murphy:
Quotation marks (1715) started in Britain and carried on in America, but then inverted commas (1839) took over Britain – for a time, at least. Inverted comma is not the most user-friendly name, since it takes the print compositor’s perspective on the thing (“take a comma; turn it upside-down”), rather than the perspective of readers or writers, who are more concerned with the significance of the mark in text. So in the 1970s and 80s, when creative writing became popular in British primary school curricula, educators championed a more transparent name: speech marks. These days, younger British adults increasingly call them quotation marks – a more grown-up version of speech marks. Their parents and grandparents look on this as Americanization, replacing the very British inverted commas. But since quotation marks is older in Britain, we could instead consider it a revival, a restoration, a resurrection. Americans preserved the term quotation marks, took care of it, then released it back in to the wild in its ancestral grounds.
As well as being a clear, informative summary of the terms’ historical development, and a welcome corrective to the simplistic formula ‘inverted commas in the UK, quotation marks in the US’, the quoted passage also delivers a useful metaphor: that of the dynamic linguistic ecosystem, in which usages compete in a given niche.
In my own niche, Ireland, the two terms co-exist, with neither gaining ultimate dominance. Where US and UK English differ, Ireland tends to adopt UK style. But it’s open to US (and other) practices, leading sometimes to mixed usage.
Searching Irish newspapers’ use of inverted commas and quotation marks via Google (site:irishtimes.com “inverted commas”, etc.) produces the following pattern. The numbers are fairly low, and Google hits can be erratic, but it’s a rough indication of the mix:
|inverted commas||quotation marks|
The Irish Mirror and Irish Sun show similar distribution but in single figures. The New York Times, by contrast, has 45 v. 5760; the Washington Post, 15 v. 1520. The conservative UK Telegraph and Times have 230 v. 192 and 360 v. 194, respectively, suggesting that it’s not just younger British adults who are adopting quotation marks.
My preference has changed over time. I grew up mainly using inverted commas, but nowadays default to quotation marks as the clearer phrase. Lynne Murphy’s The Prodigal Tongue, subtitled The Love–Hate Relationship between American and British English, is superb, by the way. I posted a few more quotes and excerpts on Twitter.
This entry was posted on Friday, May 31st, 2019 at 12:59 pm and is filed under books, dialect, language, language history, naming, punctuation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Sharon reported a problem she was having with quotation marks in some of her documents. It seems that she would type the quotation marks around a word or phrase, and they would look fine on the screen. Then, when she printed the document, the quotation marks would not print properly—they would often look like a thick, dark # sign.
When you enter quotation marks in a document, they can be any of three different characters. The regular quotation mark has a character code of 34. However, if you have the Smart Quotes feature of Word turned on, the quotation marks could use character codes of 147 and 148, depending on whether it is an opening or closing quotation mark.
If your quotation marks are not printing properly, it is typically because the font being used does not have symbols associated with character codes 147 and 148. For instance, the Courier font does not have characters for these codes. When displaying the document on the screen, Word substitutes a screen font that displays the opening and closing quotation marks properly, but then when the document is printed, the printer font (Courier) does not have them, so it either skips them or substitutes a different symbol for the characters.
There are two potential solutions to this problem. The first is to simply change to a different font for your document. For instance, if your document uses Courier, you could switch to Courier New, which does have the proper quotation mark characters.
The second solution (which should be used if you don't want to change the font) is to turn off Smart Quotes and change all existing instances of opening and closing quotes to regular quotes. Turn off Smart Quotes in this manner:
Figure 1. The AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.
If the problem continues to exist, you may have a problem with your printer driver. In this case, you should visit the printer manufacturer's Web site and download the latest version of their printer driver.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5929) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Problem Printing Quotation Marks.
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Use quotation marks to denote so-called or to show that a word is not being used in its literal sense. Do not use the words so-called AND use quotation marks.
Quotation marks, also known as inverted commas, are normally used for quotation, as their American name suggests, or to mark a title (book, film, etc), or to enclose a foreign, technical, or otherwise potentially unfamiliar word. Standard use of these marks encompasses variation: they can be single or double, and may be punctuated differently around stops, depending on local conventions.
Quotation marks can also highlight that a word is being used somehow peculiarly – a writer may wish to indicate irony, inaccuracy, or scepticism, for example; used this way, they’re called scare quotes. In the line: At the party I met a teacher, a journalist, and an ‘artist’, the scare quotes around artist act as a distancing device, probably signalling doubt about the person’s credentials as an artist. The effect is similar to the Irish phrase mar dhea.
The Oxford Manual of Style says scare quotes may serve ‘to hold up a word for inspection, as if by tongs, providing a cordon sanitaire between the word and the writer’s finer sensibilities’. It’s a technique that quickly wears thin, so style guides sometimes caution against its excessive use. And there’s a related problem: non-standard emphasis.
Sometimes people use quotation marks to stress a word or phrase, and this clashes with the general understanding of how the marks – and scare quotes – are properly used. In a comment to my recent article on the use of apostrophes, Kristen said she found this habit troublesome, offering the example ‘fresh’ fish, which inadvertently casts doubt on the freshness of the fish – the very opposite impression to what’s intended.
If you saw a window sign for ‘homemade’ stew or a label promising ‘delicious’ waffles, would the punctuation affect how you imagine the food? What about a cosmetic product that’s ‘good’ for your hair, or a claim that a service is ‘free’? Are you feeling trustful?
Lexicographer Grant Barrett endorses the use of quotation marks for emphasis, saying you have to go out of your way to misread them. But while the intention behind these messages is surely straightforward and sincere, people can be fussy about this sort of thing. And sometimes the connotations are strongly negative, as in ‘confidential’ surveys and a name you can ‘trust’.
Nor is emphasis the only reason for wayward quotation marks: the motivation for their use is sometimes more mysterious. A couple of years ago Orin looked at the difficulties quotation marks pose for computers processing language, but people can be stumped by them too. What are we to make of a bouzoukia from ‘Greece’, a basket for your ‘shopping’, or ‘sexy’ artificial trees? I’d be ‘very interested’ to hear your thoughts. No, ‘really’!Email this Post
And if you have a quotation within a quotation, you can use single quotation marks (' ') to mark the specific word or phrase that needs to be.