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Single vs. Double Citation Marks Defined

In American English, we use double citation marks ( “ ” ) in most conditions and single citation marks ( ‘ ’ ) just for quotes inside quotes or sure titles inside quotes. In different phrases, double citation marks are normally right, though utilizing single versus double citation marks in England is a bit totally different.

However the query stays: When precisely do you employ double citation marks, and when do you employ single citation marks? Beneath, we clarify the principles for when to make use of every, and we’ll even focus on the variations between citation marks in British English and American English.

Single vs. double citation marks: What’s the distinction?

In type, citation marks (or just “quotes” for brief) are simply commas, elevated to the highest of a textual content line as an alternative of on the backside. Single citation marks use just one comma—they appear similar to the apostrophe—whereas double citation marks use two commas proper subsequent to one another. The course the citation marks face relies on whether or not they come at the start or finish of the quote.

In writing, single and double citation marks seem like this:

In line with the instructor, the take a look at can be “probably the most tough examination of the yr.”

“Our instructor referred to as it ‘probably the most tough examination of the yr,’” Almir complained to his dad and mom.

So how have you learnt when to make use of single versus double citation marks? Let’s check out every individually so you realize when to make use of them.

When must you use double citation marks?

Double citation marks in American English have 5 functions:

Point out {that a} passage or phrase is copied verbatim from one other supply (a direct quote)

Present dialogue or transcribe speech

Sign the titles of quick works, like poems or songs

Set aside a phrase, normally to suggest irony, sarcasm, or skepticism

Differentiate a nickname from a given identify

Let’s check out every of those individually.

Quoting a supply

Double citation marks present {that a} passage of textual content is copied word-for-word from one other supply. In the event you’re utilizing one other individual’s textual content in your writing, put the copied phrases in between double citation marks.

James Daybell insists Shakespeare was educated due to how he wrote feminine characters, which “depict girls throughout the social spectrum composing, studying, or delivering letters.”

If punctuation had personalities, you may say that citation marks are good for recommendation as a result of they’re at all times sharing the knowledge of others by means of quotes.

Remember that citation marks are pointless for oblique or paraphrased speech. They’re solely used to point a direct quote, so when you’re rephrasing what somebody mentioned in your personal phrases, you don’t want them.

James Daybell insists Shakespeare was educated as a result of his writing depicts girls throughout the socioeconomic spectrum as literate.

For passages of greater than a paragraph, use a gap citation mark at the start of every new paragraph and a single closing citation mark on the finish. Alternatively, you may set off the passage a unique means, resembling indenting it additional than the opposite textual content or setting it in italics.

Exhibiting dialogue or speech

Like quoting different sources, double citation marks are additionally used whenever you quote speech and dialogue. Citation marks for dialogue are widespread in fiction writing to indicate a dialog between characters, whereas nonfiction articles use them to transcribe speech from eyewitnesses or interviews.

“Would you want a receipt?” the cashier requested robotically.

Once more, when you’re paraphrasing a direct quote, you don’t want citation marks.

The cashier requested if I wished a receipt.

Signifying titles

One other use of double citation marks is for the titles of quick works. Usually, citation marks are used for poems, songs, articles, quick tales, essays, and episode titles. For lengthy works like books, motion pictures, performs, periodical names, and music albums, use italics as an alternative.

“For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” is my favourite quick story from J. D. Salinger’s e book 9 Tales.

You’ll be able to see a whole record of which sorts of works use citation marks for titles right here.

Setting phrases aside

Have you ever ever seen citation marks round a single phrase that’s not a quote and questioned what it means? Typically, it’s a option to make a phrase or phrase stand out, normally to indicate that it doesn’t use its literal that means.

Use double citation marks to set aside phrases, particularly for the needs of irony, sarcasm, skepticism, or different nonstandard makes use of. Once they’re used this manner, these are referred to as “scare quotes,” and so they usually categorical doubt within the validity of the phrase, with the identical that means as “so-called.”

My daughter made me a “espresso mug” in artwork class, though it appeared extra like a bowl.

Our “boss” is technically Arnold, however it’s Vera who’s actually in cost.

Scare quotes are thought of informal language, so don’t use them in formal papers like tutorial writing.

Apart from their use as scare quotes, double citation marks also can present {that a} phrase is being mentioned as a phrase, with out regard to its precise that means. That is widespread in our Grammarly weblog, the place we regularly discuss phrase utilization.

“They’re” and “their” are pronounced the identical, however they’re two totally different phrases.


Final, double citation marks additionally differentiate nicknames from given names. They usually encompass the nickname when it comes between an individual’s first and final names in writing.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can’t escape his origins as a wrestler.

When must you use single citation marks?

In distinction to double citation marks, single citation marks solely have one goal: They change double citation marks within different citation marks. That is usually seen in quotes inside quotes, resembling whenever you’re quoting an individual who’s quoting one other individual.

The speaker informed us, “At any time when I’m feeling down, I bear in mind what the poet Rumi mentioned: ‘You aren’t one drop within the ocean. You’re the ocean in a single drop.’”

Discover how the only citation marks work similar to double citation marks, however solely inside one other pair of citation marks. If we take the Rumi quote out of the unique quote, it makes use of double citation marks as regular.

At any time when I’m feeling down, I bear in mind what the poet Rumi mentioned: “You aren’t one drop within the ocean. You’re the ocean in a single drop.”

We do that merely for the sake of readability. If we used double citation marks inside double citation marks, it might be tough to inform when one quote ended and one other started. Alternating single and double citation marks makes studying simpler.

This additionally applies to titles, when a brief work makes use of the identify of one other quick work in its title. For instance, say you’re researching a Robert Frost poem and you discover an essay you wish to focus on. Its title, whenever you confer with it, would appear like this:

“A Retrospective on ‘The Street Not Taken’ and Its Themes”

After we discuss “The Street Not Taken” by itself, we use the traditional double citation marks. Nonetheless, once we discuss it inside different quotes, we use single citation marks.

Nonetheless, if the primary title is in italics, as with books, we use the usual double citation marks for titles inside that. For instance, a e book that collects quick tales:

Farnsworth’s “A Haunted Mansion,” Everdeen’s “Black Cats,” and Different Ghostly Tales

Citation marks in American English vs. British English

All of the above guidelines apply to citation marks in America—and nearly all of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. However what about British English?

Citation marks in British English reverse single and double citation marks, so single citation marks are the usual, and double citation marks are used just for a quote inside a quote.

American English: “The chef informed me, ‘Something you order is free,’” I mentioned to the waiter.

British English: ‘The chef informed me, “Something you order is free,”’ I mentioned to the waiter.

In any other case, the principles are the identical.

Single vs. double citation marks FAQs

How are single citation marks and double citation marks used?

Double citation marks in American English are used for direct quotes, dialogue, titles of quick works, the emphasis of sure phrases, and separating nicknames from given names. Single citation marks are used to switch double citation marks once they’re within different double citation marks.

What’s the distinction between citation marks in American English and British English?

Single citation marks and double citation marks are reversed in British English. Whereas double citation marks are the usual in American English, single citation marks are customary in British English. Which means double citation marks in England are solely used to switch single citation marks inside quotes.

When must you use single citation marks in US English?

Single citation marks are solely used inside double citation marks. They comply with the identical guidelines as different quotes, however solely when changing double citation marks. Usually they present quotes inside quotes, as when one individual is quoting what one other individual mentioned.

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