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quotation marks

When you enclose a word, a phrase, a sentence or any combination of these elements in quotation marks, you set them apart from the main text. Although what goes in the space between the quotation marks is often an exact reporting of a written or oral source, there are certain guidelines on what can and cannot fill that space.

Use quotation marks

  • to enclose short direct quotations (fewer than 50 words or five lines of text):
    • "Believe me," said Jussi, "I know this won’t be easy."
  • to set off titles of short works (e.g. short stories, short poems, songs) or parts of a larger work (e.g. chapters of a book, episodes of a radio series, articles in a magazine):
    • Joni Mitchell’s "River" is one of the saddest songs I know.
  • to mark definitions or translations (the word being defined or translated is italicized):
    • In old-fashioned ice cream parlour parlance, mud stick meant "a chocolate ice cream cone."
  • to indicate slang, technical terms or words used in an unusual (often ironic) way:
    • The newlyweds choreographed a "vogue" sequence for their first dance.

Do NOT use quotation marks to enclose

  • long or block quotations:
    • Set a block quotation off from the main body of the text by using indentation and single spacing (with double spacing above and below the quotation), or a smaller font.
  • indirect speech:
    • WRONG: Mike said that "he was sorry."
    • REVISED: Mike said that he was sorry.
  • titles of major works or works containing smaller segments:
    • WRONG: Alice bought her brother "The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan" for his birthday.
    • REVISED: Alice bought her brother The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan for his birthday.

    Note: Use italics for titles of major works when the surrounding text is not italicized.

  • titles of sacred texts or legal documents:
    • WRONG: In his essay, he made four references to the "Book of Sirach" without ever quoting it.
    • REVISED: In his essay, he made four references to the Book of Sirach without ever quoting it.
  • common or trite expressions:
    • WRONG: Genia is decisive and fearless; her philosophy is to "seize the day."
    • REVISED: Genia is decisive and fearless; her philosophy is to seize the day.

For more on quotation marks, read the following articles: