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Using Quotation Marks Correctly

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Quotation marks are mainly used to set off and represent exact language that another person has written or spoken. When writing papers, using quotation marks for outside sources guards against plagiarism and represents academic honesty. Here are some guidelines to follow when incorporating someone else's words into your own writing. The correct use of quotation marks is shown in italics after each guideline.

  • Quotation marks always come in pairs. The quotation mark placed before a quote is referred to as an open quotation mark because it begins the quotation. The quotation mark placed at the end of a quote is referred to as a closed quotation mark because it ends the quotation. You cannot have a quotation mark at just the beginning of a quote or just at the end.

    According to former president Harry Truman, "It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose your own."Image of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.
  • Notice that in the example shown above regarding what Harry Truman said, the first word of the quote is capitalized. However, do not capitalize the first word when what you are quoting is only a piece of what was said or written by someone else.

    Neil Armstrong said that his landing on the moon was "one small step for man."
  • Notice too that in the example shown above regarding what Harry Truman said, the period is placed inside the closed
    quotation mark. The same is true for a comma.

    "I have not yet begun to fight," John Paul Jones said when asked to surrender to a British ship in 1779.
  • When a colon or a semicolon follows a quote, it should be placed outside the closed quotation mark.

    Benjamin Franklin said that there never was a "good war"; most people strongly agree with his sentiment.
  • Sometimes you may cite a quotation within another quotation. In this case, single quotation marks are used to enclose the quote within the other quotation.

    The sports writer said, "When I interviewed Michael Jordan after a poor game, he said 'Everyone fails at something,' which I have certainly found to be true in my own life."
  • If you feel that a quote you want to use is too long, you may omit part of the quote. If you do this, replace the missing part with an ellipsis (dot space dot space dot space . . . ).

    In 1961, President John F. Kennedy said, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to . . . landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."
  • If a quote is a question, place the question mark inside the closed quotation mark.

    Our teacher asked, "Who wants to be a volunteer to help other students?"

    However, if a sentence you write containing a quote asks a question but the quote is not a question, place the question mark outside the closed quotation mark.

    Who was it that said, "I must consider the will of the people"?

    Use these guidelines to correctly quote what has been said or written by others.

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Confusing Pairs of Words Critical Reading Eponyms
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Idioms Metaphors Number Prefixes
Parts of Speech Phonics Rules Proofreading
Using Punctuation Marks Reading Comprehension Reading Novels
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