Quotation marks – made easy!
Follow these simple rules for using quotation marks and you won’t go far wrong.
Angela, a regular reader on this site, asked me about using quotation marks for direct speech. I’m glad she did because it can be a bit confusing! For example, do you put other punctuation inside or outside the inverted commas? And should you use single or double quotes?
Tip #1: For each new speaker, use a new paragraph
‘I love you,’ said Annie.
‘I love you too,’ said Pete.
Annie went to the window and said: ‘It’s going to snow.’
Tip #2: Put a comma or colon before the quoted speech
In the last line of the example above, the speech is preceded by a colon. You could also use a comma.
Tip #3: Use a capital letter at the beginning of the quoted speech, even if it isn’t the start of a sentence
In the same example, the first letter of ‘It’s going…’ is capitalised.
Tip #4: Usually the speech ends with punctuation inside the quotes
‘Do you love me?’ asked Annie.
‘Of course I do!’ exclaimed Pete.
You can also use a dash (for interruption) or three dots (for trailing off):
‘Do you – ‘
‘What are you asking me now? Do I…’
Tip #5: If you use single quotation marks, use double inverted commas for quotes within quotes, and vice versa.
It doesn’t really matter if you use single or double quotes. So either of these are correct:
‘I was crying because Pete said, “I have never loved you!”‘
“I was crying because Pete said, ‘I have never loved you!'”
Tip #6: Don’t use inverted commas for reported speech
Pete said, ‘I love chips.’ (Direct speech)
Pete said he loved chips. (Reported speech)