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.

Question Marks


The main function of a question mark is to indicate a question or query.

1. Use a question mark at the end of all direct questions:

  • What is your name?
  • How much money did you transfer?
  • Did you send euro or dollars?

2. Use a question mark after a tag question:

  • You’re French, aren’t you?
  • Snow isn’t green, is it?
  • He should go and see a doctor, shouldn’t he?

3. Don’t forget to use a question mark at the end of a sentence that really is a direct question:

  • How else would I get there, after all?
  • What if I said to you, ‘I don’t love you any more’?
  • ‘Who knows when I’ll die?’, he asked rhetorically.

4. Do not use a question mark after an indirect or reported question:

  • The teacher asked them what their names were. (What are your names?)
  • John asked Mary if she loved him. (Do you love me?)
  • I’m wondering if she’s coming. (Is she coming?)

5. Be careful with titles and abbreviations when question marks are involved:

  • ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ was a play before it was a film.
  • Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? was a play before it was a film.
  • Have you seen the film ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’?
  • Have you seen the film Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf??
  • Have you ever been to L.A.?

Note that there should be no space immediately before a question mark.

Source: englishclub.com


Remember point 4:

  • ‘Ask yourself if they would be looking at the negatives?’ —this is not a question; it does not end with a question mark.
  • But Ask yourself: ‘Would they be looking at the negatives?’ ♥
  • ‘Ask yourself how you like to learn?’ Again, this is not a question. Use a full stop.
  • But Ask yourself: ‘How do I like to learn?’ ♥

‘Will they be looking at the negatives?’ and ‘How do I like to learn?’ are questions and deserve question marks.

Happy Valentine's Day!