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Quotation mark

Quotation marks, also called quotes or inverted commas, are punctuation marks used to set off speech, a quotation, or a phrase. They have a variety of forms in different languages and in different media.

Table of contents
1 Usage
2 Glyphs


Quotations & speech

An opening quotation mark should appear at the beginning of each paragraph of the quoted text and a closing quotation mark at the end of the last only.

A closing quotation mark is used before, and an opening quotation mark after, phrases such as he said that interrupt speech.

British and United States style differs as to whether single or double quotation marks are used, but neither is an absolute rule, and a publisher's or even an author's style may take precedence. (The only absolute rule is consistency!) Although illogical, the American convention is for sentence punctuation to be included inside the quotation marks, even if the punctuation is not part of the quoted sentence:

'Good morning, Dave,' said HAL.
"Good morning, Dave," said HAL.

The British style is to have the punctuation where it belongs logically, for small quoted phrases:

Someone shouted 'Shut up!'.
Also called "plain quotes", they are teardrops.

However, despite what is sometimes written on discussions of punctuation, British positioning is the same as American in complete quoted speech:

'Good morning, Dave,' said HAL.

In some subject areas (such as software documentation and chemistry), it is conventional to include only what is part of the quoted phrase within the quotes, for clarity:

Enter the URL as "", the name as "Wikipedia", and click "OK".

For speech within speech:

'HAL said, "Good morning, Dave",' said Frank.
"HAL said, 'Good morning, Dave'," said Frank.

Do not use quotation marks for paraphrased speech:
WRONG: HAL said that "Everything was going extremely well."
RIGHT: HAL said that everything was going extremely well.

Emphasis and scare quotes

Another important usage of quotation makes is to indicate or call attention to ironic or apologetic words, in a tactic sometimes called scare quotes.

He claimed he was too "busy" to visit me.

Scare quotes are also used to indicate that the writer realizes that the word is not being used in its (currently) accepted sense ("in the fifteenth century, we 'knew' that blah blah..."), and also when a word is representing itself, rather than the concept for which is usually stands.

Titles of artistic works

Quotation marks, rather than italics, are generally used for the titles of shorter works. Whether these are single or double is again a matter of style:

See also Wikipedia:Manual of Style.


A list of glyphs used as quotation marks and their Unicode (and HTML) values and names follows. (Warning: Some of these glyphs may not display properly in older browsers, which may substitute other sorts or a square.)

Straight quotes

These are often used in rapid writing and are the standard quotation marks used on typewriters and computers. However, modern word processors have started to convert text to use curved quotes (see below). Some computer systems designed in the past had proper opening and closing quotes, with a few machines even making a distinction between regular apostrophes (e.g. couldn't) and apostrophes that show possession (e.g. Dave's car). However, the standard ASCII character set, which has been used on a wide variety of computers since the 1960s, only made three quotation marks available: ", ', and the dubious backquote `.

Sample Unicode (decimal) HTML entity Description


x0027 (39) '
but usually '
Apostrophe (single quote)


x0022 (34) "
but usually "
Straight quotation mark (double quote)

Many systems, like the personal computers of the 1980s and early 90s, actually drew straight quotes like curved closing quotes on-screen and in printouts, so text would appear like this (approximately):

    ”Good morning, Dave,” said HAL.
    ’Good morning, Dave,’ said HAL.

The backquote (`) could then be used when doing single quote marks, and give a proper appearance. Unfortunately, nothing similar was available for the double-quote, so many people resorted to using sets of two single quotes for punctuation (this is how TeX knows you want to produce book quotes, for instance):

    ‘Good morning, Dave,’ said HAL.
    ‘‘Good morning, Dave,’’ said HAL.

However, the appearance of these characters has varied greatly from system to system. Currently, due to the transition to new character sets such as Unicode (which specifies that single and double quotes should be vertical rather than angled) such tricks can lead to a fairly different appearance:

    ``Good morning, Dave,'' said HAL.

Curved quotes in English

Also called "book quotes", they look like 6 (six) and 9 (nine) with the circles filled. They are preferred in formal writing and with correct typography. They are *emphatically* not preferred in normal ASCII internet email, though some email programs default to converting them anyway.

Curved quotes are also sometimes referred to as "smart quotes", in reference to the name of a function found in word processors like Microsoft Word that automatically converts straight quotes typed by the user into curved quotes; this is a misnomer, as it is not the quotes themselves that are "smart" but the function which is able to correctly determine (most of the time) whether to use a right-curving or a left-curving glyph in any particular case.

Samples Unicode (decimal) HTML entities Description


x2018 (8216), x2019 (8217) ‘ ’ Single quotes (left and right)


x201c (8220), x201d (8221) “ ” Double quotes (left and right)

Variants of and are:

– x'201B' (HTML: ‛) – single high-reversed-9, or single reversed comma, quotation mark
– x'201F' (HTML: ‟) – double high-reversed-9, or double reversed comma, quotation mark

Curved quotes in German

Confusingly, what is the "left quote" in English is used as the right quote in German, and a different "low 9 quote" is used for the left instead:

Samples Unicode (decimal) HTML entities Description


x201a (8218), x2018 (8216) ‚ ‘ German single quotes (left and right)


x201d (8221), x201e (8222) „ “ German double quotes (left and right)

Angle quotes in French and Russian

Some languages, such as French or Russian, use angle quotation marks or guillemets and add space within the quotes, as in:

Est-ce que vous aimez ma ponctuation, Henri ?

Although not common in Dutch in general, double angle quotation marks are used in Dutch government publications. Sometimes, these are used in German publications also, but rather rarely, and then exactly reversed and without spacing.

Samples Unicode (decimal) HTML entities Description

‹ O ›

x2039 (8249), x203a (8250) ‹ › French single angle quotes (left and right)

« O »

x00AB (171), x00BB (187) « » French double angle quotes (left and right)

Square quotes in East Asian languages

Some East Asian languages use the following quotation marks. The double quotes are used for quote-within-quote.

Samples Unicode (decimal) HTML entities Description
x300C (12300), x300D (12301) 「 」 Asian single square quotes (left and right)
Chinese: 引號 (Pinyin: yin3 hao4)
Japanese: Kanji: 鉤括弧 ; hiragana: かぎかっこ (kagikakko)
x300E (12302), x300F (12303) 『 』 Asian double square quotes (left and right)
Chinese: 雙引號 (Pinyin: shuang1 yin3 hao4)
Japanese: 二重鉤括弧 (nijyuu kagikakko)

See also Double quote