Quotations and Quotation Marks

Quotation marks

  • Use quotation marks to enclose direct quotations, be they complete sentences, sentence fragments, or several sentences.
  • Set off long quotations of prose or poetry by using a block quotation. Read about “block quotations” in the Punctuation and Formatting section.

  • Use single quotation marks to enclose a quotation within a quotation.

  • Use quotation marks around titles of short works, newspaper and magazine articles, short stories, songs, episodes of television and radio programs, and chapters or subdivisions of books. (Note: Titles of books. plays, websites, and films, and names of magazines and newspapers are set in italics.)

  • Quotation marks may used to set off words used as words, but the preferred style is to italicize them.

    Example: She sat in wonderment as the lexicographer explained what wonder meant.

Block quotations

Quotations of about 100 words or more (or that contain a seemingly excessive amount of text, perhaps six to eight lines of printed text) should be set off as block quotations.

Block quotations are not enclosed in quotation marks and always start a new line. They are further set off visually from surrounding text by being indented from one or both sides; sometimes they are also set in smaller type.

For consistency and readability’s sake, try just indenting each block quote on the left to whatever amount works best for your document’s line width and text size. A reduction in point size is discouraged unless it truly enhances the readability of the quotation or sets it off from the main text better than just indenting can.

This paragraph will serve as an example of indenting on both sides (ignore the vertical-line flourish). As discussed in the Chicago Manual of Style, in addition to the length criterion for block quotes noted above,

a quotation of two or more paragraphs is best set off, as are quoted correspondence (if salutations, signatures, and such are included), lists, and any material that requires special formatting. If many quotations of varying length occur close together, running them all in may make for easier reading. But where quotations are being compared or otherwise used as entities in themselves, it may be better to set them all as block quotations, however short. Poetry is set off far more often than prose.


Initial capital or lowercase letter: In-text quotations

  • Keep to the well-known rule that, aside from proper nouns, words are normally lowercased unless they begin a sentence or line of poetry. The first word in a quoted passage may need to be adjusted to conform to this rule:

    Benjamin Franklin admonishes us to “plough deep while while sluggards sleep.”

  • “When the quotation has a more remote syntactic relation to the rest of the sentence, the initial letter remains capitalized:”

    As Franklin advised, “Plough deep while while sluggards sleep.”

    His aphorism “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other” is a cogent warning to people of all ages.

  • “If a quotation that is only part of a sentence in the original forms a complete sentence as quoted, a lowercase letter may be changed to a capital if appropriate. In the example that follows, “those” begins mid sentence in the original…”:

    Aristotle put it this way: “Those who are eminent in virtue usually do not stir up insurrections, always a minority.”
    but
    Aristotle believed that “those who are eminent in virtue usually do not stir up insurrections, always a minority.”


Initial capital or lowercase letter: Block quotations

  • As with in-text quotations, the initial letter of a block quotation that is capitalized in the original may be lowercased if the syntax demands it. In the following example, the quotation from Aristotle begins in the original with a capital letter and a paragraph indention.

    In discussing the reasons for political disturbances, Aristotle observes that

    revolutions also break out when opposite parties, e.g. the rich and the people, are equally balanced, and there is little or no middle class; for, if either party were manifestly superior, the other would not risk an attack upon them. And, for this reason, those who are eminent in virtue usually do not stir up insurrections, always a minority. Such are the beginnings and causes of the disturbances and revolutions to which every form of government is liable. (Politics 5.4)

  • But if the syntax requires it, keep the initial letter capitalized:

    In discussing the reasons for political disturbances, Aristotle makes the following observations:

    Revolutions also break out when opposite parties, e.g. the rich and the people, are equally balanced, and there is little or no middle class; for, if either party were manifestly superior, the other would not risk an attack upon them. And, for this reason, those who are eminent in virtue usually do not stir up insurrections, always a minority. Such are the beginnings and causes of the disturbances and revolutions to which every form of government is liable. (Politics 5.4)

  • “If a quotation that is only part of a sentence in the original forms a complete sentence as quoted, a lowercase letter may be changed to a capital if appropriate. In the example that follows, “those” begins mid sentence in the original…”:

    Aristotle put it this way: “Those who are eminent in virtue usually do not stir up insurrections, always a minority.”
    but
    Aristotle believed that “those who are eminent in virtue usually do not stir up insurrections, always a minority.”


Punctuation with quotation marks

  • In most cases, periods and commas go inside the quotation marks.
  • Colons and semicolons go outside quotation marks.

  • Put question marks and exclamation points inside quotation marks unless they apply to the sentence as a whole.


Single-word speech

  • Words such as “yes,” “no,” “where,” “how,” and “why,” when used singly, are not enclosed in quotation marks except in direct discourse. (See also the entry for question mark.)

    Ezra always answered yes; he could never say no to a friend.

    Please stop asking why.

    but

    “Yes,” he replied weakly.
    Again she repeated, “Why?”


Common misuses of quotation marks

  • Avoid these common misuses of quotation marks:

    • Do not use quotation marks to draw attention to familiar slang, to disown trite expressions, or to justify an attempt at humor.
    • Do not use quotation marks around indirect quotations.

    • Do not use quotation marks around the title of your own essay.


Sources:

  • Chicago Manual of Style, sixteenth edition
  • Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference, fifth edition
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