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Punctuation Guide


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Commonly-used punctuation marks

Quotation marks [' “”]

Quotation marks, also called quotes or inverted commas, are punctuation marks used in pairs to set off speech, a quotation, or a phrase. The pair consists of an opening quotation mark and a closing quotation mark.

Quotations and speech

When the quoted text is interrupted, such as with the phrase he said, a closing quotation mark is used before the interruption, and an opening quotation mark after. Commas are also often used before and after the interruption. “Good morning John,” he said, “it's a lovely day.”

British and United States style differs as to whether single or double quotation marks are used, with single marks being preferred in British English. But neither is an absolute rule, and a publisher's or even an author's style may take precedence.

The American convention is for sentence punctuation to be included inside the quotation marks, even if the punctuation is not part of the quoted sentence, while the British style is to have the punctuation outside the quotation marks for small quoted phrases.

In some subject areas (such as software documentation and chemistry), it is conventional to include only the quoted string within the quotes, to avoid ambiguity with regard to whether a punctuation mark belongs to it:

Enter the URL as “www.wikipedia.org”, the name as “Wikipedia”, and click "OK".
The URL starts with “www.wikipedia.”. This is followed by “org” or “com”.

For speech within speech:

‘HAL said, “Good morning, Dave”,’ said Frank. (British)
“HAL said, ‘Good morning, Dave’,” said Frank. (American)

It is generally considered incorrect to use quotation marks for indirect (reported) speech:

RIGHT: HAL said that everything was going extremely well.
WRONG: HAL said that “Everything was going extremely well.”

In American English, commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks, no matter the circumstance:

He is called “HAL.”
Also called “plain quotes,” they are teardrops.

Question marks and exclamation marks must rely on logic to determine whether they go inside or outside:

Did he say, “Good morning, Dave”?
No, he said, “Where are you, Dave?”

(Note that in the above sentences, only one punctuation mark is used at the end of each sentence. Regardless of its placement, only one end mark (?, !, or .) can end a sentence in American English, whereas in British English, the combination ?”. is acceptable.)

Paragraph spanning quotes

In most cases, quotations that span multiple paragraphs should be block-quoted, and thus do not require quotation marks. If quotation marks are used for a multiple-paragraph quotation, the convention is to give each paragraph opening quotes, using closing quotes only for the final paragraph of the quotation.

Emphasis and ironic quotes

Another important usage of quotation marks is to indicate or call attention to ironic or apologetic words. Ironic speech is where the speaker says something other than what s/he actually means. Ironic quotes are sometimes gestured in verbal speech using air quotes, ie using one's fingers to draw quotation marks in the air.

He claimed he was too “busy” to visit me.

Ironic quotes should be used with care, as they can obscure the writer's intended meaning and are easily confused with quotations.

Quotes are also used to indicate that the writer realizes that the word is not being used in its (currently) accepted sense.

Titles of artistic works

Quotation marks are generally used for the titles of shorter works. Whether these are single or double is again a matter of style:

short fiction, poetry, etc.: Arthur C. Clarke's “The Sentinel”
book chapters: The first chapter of 3001: The Final Odyssey is “Comet Cowboy”
articles in books, magazines, journals, etc.: “Extra-Terrestrial Relays,” Wireless World, October 1945
album tracks, singles, etc.: David Bowie's “Space Oddity”

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the
Wikipedia articles:S "Punctuation", "Full stop", "Comma (punctuation)", "Semicolon",
"Colon (punctuation)", "Apostrophe (mark)", "Quotation mark", "Question mark",
"Exclamation mark", "Dash", "Hyphen", "Slash (punctuation)", "Bracket", "Ellipsis".