On many people’s list of pet peeves is the misplaced quotation mark. I’m reminded of the episode of Friends where Joey puts air quotes around almost every word because he’s not sure how to use them. It makes for a humorous show, but can really take your credibility down a notch. On a side note, there are slews of people who have a pet peeve about air quotes in general, even when used correctly, but I digress.
Quotation marks in their most common usages 1) set apart dialogue in writing that has speech between characters and 2) distinguish information used verbatim from other sources.
Ex. of dialogue
“Go to time out, John. Is putting your hands on your friends the way you’re supposed to solve an argument?”
“What do you need to do instead?”
“Talk to them or get a teacher…”
Notice when a new speaker takes a turn talking, a new line of text is started and it is indented as if it is a new paragraph (even if it’s just one sentence long). This rule of dialogue also applies to statements where you might repeat what someone said.
Ex. Did you just say, “I ate cats,” or, “I make hats,” Ken?
Also remember that Standard Written American English requires all commas, question marks, ellipses, etc. that pertain to what the character says go within the quotation marks. Other English-speaking nations put their punctuation outside of the quotation marks. Punctuation that pertains to the sentence as a whole, not the speech taking place, goes outside of the quotation marks (like in the example above).
Ex. of quotation
As a result, the child’s “true identity…remains hidden. This pattern distorts intimate relationships and may continue into adult life” (Schaverien 138).
Schaverien, Joy. “Boarding School Syndrome: Broken Attachments A Hidden Trauma.” British Journal Of Psychotherapy 27.2 (2011): 138-155. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 May 2013.
In this sentence, the quotation marks surround the text which is borrowed, or quoted, from another source. Because I have taken the phrase verbatim from its original author, a source citation is needed in addition to the quotation marks in order to give credit to that author. When summarizing or paraphrasing from another author (meaning your text is not identical to the original source), no quotation marks are needed around the text, but a citation is still required. Failure to cite that borrowed thoughts are borrowed is plagiarism.
Now, back to Joey and his air quotes. Though he placed his quotes in all the wrong places, the concept he was trying to employ was the use of quotation marks to emphasize irony, sarcasm, the unusual, or the unlikely/unreal.
Ex. That “alien” you thought you saw under your bed was really just a pile of dirty clothes and some scary shadows.
Ex. Yeah, we’re too busy “working” to do that.
So, when Joey said he was, “Sorry,” that implied that he didn’t truly mean it. In the graphic, you can see another example of misplaced quotations that disrupt the meaning (semantics) of a message. It leads you to question whether they actually DO want people to use the bottled water, and whether it really is coffee they’re making with it or not. Simple lesson to take away from Joey and bad signs everywhere: quotation marks do not increase emphasis on a word, change the intonation when read aloud, or magically make ordinary words titles of objects as in the case of “coffee.”
It’s also necessary to place quotation marks around titles of small works.
|DO use quotation marks||DON’T use quotation marks|
|Individual Poems and Short Stories||Collections of Poems or Stories/Anthologies|
|Individual Songs||Album/Opera/Musical Composition Title|
|Short Plays||Plays with more than 3 acts|
|Individual Essays||Collections of Essays/ Anthologies|
|Magazine/Journal/Periodical Articles||Newspaper/Magazine/Journal as a whole|
|Episodes of TV or Radio Show||Title of Show/Movie|
|Theses/Dissertations/Reports||Conference Proceedings/Legal Cases|
|Art Exhibits||Work of Art|
Chart made based on list by: Robin. “Quotation Marks Rules: Grammar Guide.” Hub Pages. Hub Pages Inc. 2013.
Web. 14 Aug. 2013.
The less common occasion of a quote within a quote is handled with the help of two apostrophes. In this case, the innermost quotation will use an apostrophe at the beginning and end of the quotation and the outermost quote will get the full quotation marks.
Ex. As a courtesan, Angellica Bianca, much “’Like the actress [and] the woman dramatist[,] is sexualized, circulated, [and] denied a subject position.’” For actresses and writers, the ladies are prevented from having that subjectivity “’in the theater hierarchy’” (Elin quoted by Herrin 20).
Herron, Shane Michael. “’Ludicrous Solemnity’: Satire’s Aesthetic Turn.” State University of New York at Buffalo, 2011. United States — New York: ProQuest. Web. 28 May 2013.
In this essay on Aphra Behn’s The Rover, I quoted a source who quoted a source. Because the quote I used was already a quote, I had to make the original quote marks into apostrophes and then add my own quotation marks on the outside of them in order to indicate I was quoting a quote. In the citation, I noted for the reader’s clarity that my source, Herrin, quoted a source, Elin. In the end, I was quoting both of them, so they both needed credit. In a works cited page, only the source you get the quote from needs inclusion (even if it is not the original source of the phrase).
Feel free to contact me with any grammar questions you may have (on this topic or others) using the form. I also take suggestions for future topics you’d like me to cover! Looking forward to hearing from you. Write on!
Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast