Quotation marks are signs used to indicate that the writer is giving
exactly the words of another. A French printer named Morel used a comma
in the outer margin to indicate a quoted line about 1550. About a
century later another Frenchman, Menage, introduced a mark ("")
resembling a double parenthesis but shorter. These marks were cast on
the middle of the type body so that they could be reversed for use at
either the beginning or the end of a quotation. The French have retained
these signs as their quotation marks ever since.
When the English adopted the use of quotation marks, they did not take
over the French marks, but substituted two inverted commas at the
beginning and two apostrophes at the end of the quoted paragraph. These
marks are typographically unsatisfactory. They are weak and therefore
hardly adequate to their purpose in aiding the understanding through the
eye. Being cast on the upper part of the type body, they leave a blank
space below and thus impair the beauty of the line and interfere with
good spacing. Certain rules for the position of quotation marks when
used with other marks are based upon these typographical considerations
rather than upon logical considerations.
_Rules for the Use of Quotation Marks_
1. Every direct quotation should be enclosed in double quotation marks.
"I will go," said he, "if I can."
Reports of what another person has said when given in words other than
his own are called indirect quotations and take no marks.
He said he would go if he could.
2. A quotation of several paragraphs requires quotation marks at the
beginning of each paragraph, but at the end of the last one only. In
legal documents, and sometimes elsewhere, quotations are defined and
emphasized by putting double commas at the beginning of every line of
The same result may be better obtained by using smaller type, or
indenting the quotation, or both.
3. A quotation included within another quotation should be enclosed by
single quotation marks.
He said: "I heard him cry 'Put down that gun,' and then I heard a
4. Titles of books, essays, art works, etc., are usually enclosed in
quotation marks. When the books are supposedly familiar to all readers,
the marks are not used. You would not print "The Bible," "Paradise
Lost," "The Iliad."
The titles of books, etc., are sometimes printed in italics instead of
being enclosed in quotation marks. This is a matter of office style
rather than of good or bad practice.
5. In writing about plays or books, the name of the work may be quoted
and the name of a character italicized. This is done to avoid confusion
between the play, the character, and the real person portrayed. "William
Tell" is a play. _William Tell_ is a character in fiction. William Tell
is a national hero of Switzerland.
This usage is by no means uniform; here again, we are on the ground of
6. Names of vessels are sometimes quoted, sometimes italicized, and
sometimes printed without distinguishing marks. Here we are once more on
the ground of office style.
7. Sentences from a foreign language are usually enclosed in quotation
marks. Single words or phrases are usually printed in italics. Both
italics and quotation marks should not be used except under certain
unusual conditions or when positively ordered by the author.
8. Quotation marks may be used with a word to which the writer desires
to attract particular attention or to which he desires to give an
unusual, technical, or ironical meaning.
This "gentleman" needs a shave.
9. When a quotation is long or when it is introduced in a formal manner,
it is usually preceded by a colon. Isolated words or phrases call for no
point after the introductory clause. This is true when the phrases so
quoted run to considerable length, provided there is no break in the
flow of thought and expression.
10. When a quotation ends a sentence the quotation marks are placed
after the period.
The comma is always placed inside the quotation marks.
The position of the other marks (semicolon, colon, exclamation, and
interrogation) is determined by the sense. If they form a part of the
matter quoted, they go inside the quote marks; if not, they go outside
11. When quotation marks occur at the beginning of a line of poetry,
they should go back into the indention space.
"Breathes there a man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
'This is my own, my native land'?"
This illustration is also a good example of the use of marks in
combinations. We have first the single quotation marking the end of the
included quotation, then the interrogation which ends the sentence, then
the double quotation marks in their proper position.
Quotation marks should not be used needlessly. Very familiar expressions
from the best known authors, such as _to the manor born_, _a conscience
void of offence_, _with malice toward none and charity for all_, have
become part of the current coin of speech and need not be quoted. Lists
of words considered as words merely, lists of books or plays, and other
such copy should be printed without quotation marks. Sprinkling a page
thickly with quotation marks not only spoils its appearance but makes it
hard to read, without adding to its clearness of meaning.
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