Quotes and quotation marks Part Two

Unnecessary Quote Marks
Let's "knock down the door" and "barge in", ey.

Single and double quotation marks

Double quotation marks are reserved for ‘quotes within quotes’, whereas single quotation marks are used for quotations according to the Style Guide & Cambridge Guide to English Usage.


  • He said ‘I don’t like it when you call him “Big Ears”; it’s insulting!’

Nevertheless, except for government publications (where single quotation marks are preferred), it is acceptable to use double quotation marks as a first option if this is your preference. Double quotation marks (in the first instance) are preferred in journalism and the media.

Linguistic slumming

Beware of authors who use quote marks for the linguistic equivalent of slumming, partaking of colloquial vocabulary and sneering at it at the same time. If the use of ‘scare quotes’ is ‘over the top’ it can put the reader ‘off-side’, and in the ‘worst-case scenario’ it’s a real ‘turn-off’.

Source: The Editor’s Companion, 2004.

Quotes and tone

Be sparing with quotes. Direct quotes should be used when either the speaker or what he said is surprising, or when the words he used are particularly pithy or graphic. Otherwise you can probably paraphrase him more concisely. The most pointless quote is the inconsequential remark attributed to a nameless source: ‘Everyone wants to be in on the act,’ says one high-ranking civil servant.

Source: The Economist Style Guide

Quotation marks or inverted commas?

The term ‘inverted commas’ has been used and is still sometimes used (most prevalently in UK English). However, the currently preferred and most commonly used term is quotation marks, or in short, quote marks.

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