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Quotation Mark

Quotation marks, also called quotes, quote marks, quotemarks, speech marks, inverted commas or talking marks, are punctuation marks used in pairs in various writing systems to set off direct speech, a quotation, or a phrase. The pair consists of an opening quotation mark and a closing quotation mark, which may or may not be the same character.

Definition and Introduction to quotation marks

The quotation mark consists of a pair of upside down or right side up commas placed directly next to each other. They are also called quotes, quote marks, speech marks, double quotation marks, and inverted commas.

These punctuation marks are used in order to denote direct speech, a quotation of another person’s words, or another person’s phrase in writing systems. Quotation marks are used in a pair; in other words, there is always a pair at the beginning of the quoted material, and a right side up pair at the end. 

The double quotation mark outdates the single quotation mark and its first known use was from a fifteenth-century manuscript in which it was used to denote an important passage in the text. Interestingly, the passage was not a quotation.

Usage in sentences

There are several different instances that occur in the English language which require the use of the quotation mark. Below are some examples.

Quotation or direct speech: 

My mother said “That’s fine,” when I asked her if I could spend the night tomorrow.

Scare quotes meant to express irony:

Those “fresh” vegetables have plenty of mold growing on them.

Mention of another work’s title in a shorter or subsidiary written work:

This essay is based on a recent reading of “Exceptional Executions of the 14th Century.”

In American English, double quotations are used first, whereas British English generally uses single quotations for the same instances (this distinction only began in 1900). The second type of quotation mark, whether single or double, is nested within the original quotation marks, allowing for a distinction that describes the source of the quoted material.

How quotations differ worldwide

In type, there are two different types of quotation marks. The first is the neutral, vertical, straight, typewriter, or “dumb” quotation marks, in which the left and right marks are exactly the same.

The second type of quotation marks is typographic, curly, curved, or book quotes. In this case, the initial quote marks resemble upside down commas, or sixes, and the ending quote marks resemble right side up commas or nines. For example: “ and ”.

Curly quotation marks are often used in typeset text such as that of a manuscript (books, magazines, etc.). Since many computer or typewriter keyboards lack differing quotation mark keys, many typed writing only uses the vertical quotation marks. “Smart quotes” features in computer software converts vertical quotation marks to curly ones, but do not always work correctly.

Other languages use different quote marks, or use them in a different manner. For instance, Albanian quote marks are used with the beginning double set level with the text, and resembling 9s, while the ending quotes are aligned with the top of the text and resemble sixes („…“). Arabic uses both the double quote and a double sideways v typography («…») for quotations, whereas Armenian, Azerbaijani, Basque, and Belarusian only uses the double sideways v version. Traditional Chinese writing uses a different type of quotation marks which resemble upside down and rightside up “Ls,” and depends upon whether the writing is done from right to left or up to down.

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