Quotation Marks: Double or Single?

Posted: February 19th, 2014, 10:17 am   By: brittany.corners

“I quote John Lennon: ‘I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.’ Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off people.”—Ferris Bueller, pontificating about why he does not believe in isms.

Even the Sausage King of Chicago needs to know when to use double or single quotation marks.

Double Quotation Marks

  1. Most commonly, these are used to indicate exact language used by someone else (yep, a quotation).
  2. Example: Poor Paul Ryan appeared crestfallen after the guitarist of his favorite band said Ryan is “the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades.”

  3. They can also identify “scare quotes.” When employed in this way, quotation marks let a writer express sarcasm, distance herself from a term, or show disdain toward certain language.
  4. Example: When I heard about Ryan Lochte’s efforts to trademark his inane “catchphrase,” I prayed for an extinction-level asteroid to come and punish us all.

  5. Double quotation marks can also be used with titles of works such as television show episodes and magazine articles. However, rules involving titles vary depending on style guides, so you have no concrete guidelines to follow here.

Single Quotation Marks

These appear much less frequently. Chiefly, they serve to indicate quotations within quotations. Newspapers, to save space, will also use them in headlines.

Example: So I called the guy and said, “My buddy told me, ‘I want to go to Minnesota and kill Osama bin Laden,’ but that doesn’t really make sense, right?”

Be Careful!

Quotation marks stand as the one of the most abused punctuation marks in English. Follow the rules above, and always consult a style guide when in doubt. If not, you may find your work on the “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks.