Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

Quotation Marks

Punctuating Quotations

  1. Quotation marks are used to set off a person's words, whether spoken or written. They are placed at both the beginning and end of the quote.
    • Ex: Sue remarked, "I'll meet you at the movies,"
  2. A comma is used to set off the quote from the rest of the sentence (as above) unless the quotation is blended into the sentence.
    • Ex: Sue said that the choir will "chant an ancient tribal song."
  3. If a quote is interrupted by explanatory words, use commas to set off the explanation.
    • Ex: "We'll go back to living in caves," said Old Man Warner to the crowd, "and we'll be eating chickweed and acorns."
  4. A colon may be used if the quotation is long and begins with a full sentence of introduction.
    • Ex: The following speech was made by Presient Lincoln at Gettysburg: "Four score and seven years ago..."
  5. Use an ellipsis (...) when you want to drop words out of a quote.
    • Ex: Lincoln said, "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth...a new nation."
  6. Single quotation marks are used to set off a quotation within a quotation.
    • Ex: Mary heard the cleaning woman mutter, "In the words of Lacy Macbeth, 'Out! Out! Damn spot!'" (Note that the single quotes and double quotes are used together at the end.)

Rules for Placement of Puncuation Marks with Quotations

  1. Periods and commas are always placed inside quotation marks.
    • Ex: In "The Lottery," Tessie Hutchinson protests, "It isn't fair."
    • Exception: In MLA citations, the period follows the parentheses.
    • Ex: Tessie Hutchinson protested, "It isn't fair" (Jackson 346).
  2. Colons and semicolons are always placed outside quotation marks.
    • Ex: John wrote, "I'm sorry that I won't be able to come home for Christmas"; however, he managed to get some time off.
  3. Question marks and exclamation points are placed inside UNLESS they apply to the whole sentence and not just the quotation.
    • Ex: Did you hear the teacher say "Please bring your texts tomorrow"? (sentence is a question)
    • Ex: His mother asked, "Do you plan to come with us?" (quote is a question)

Other Uses for Quotation Marks

  1. Use quotation marks around the titles of short works: newspaper and magazine articles, poems, short stories, songs, television and radio programs, chapters and subdivisions of books.
    • Ex: Many Americans enjoy Walt Whitman's poem "Leaves of Grass."
    • Note: titles of longer works, such as books, films, plays, names of magazines and newspapers and television series, are put in italics or underlined.
  2. Quotation marks may be used to set off words used as words.
    • Ex: The words "its" and "it's" are often confused.
  3. Do NOT use quotation marks in an attempt to justify the use of slang or cliched expressions. Avoid the use of those types of phrases; find something better.
    • Ex: Her attitude was "sweet as sugar." (try ingratiating)
    • Ex: That job was "a piece of cake." (try easy)