Punctuation series: Curly quote marks

Krista Radoeva Knowledge share
3 Feb’16

Also called smart quotes or typographer’s quotes, they are the punctuation marks used to quote direct speech or reproduced text. There are two different options: single and double.

In the UK we usually use the single variety with double being favoured in the US. If there is a quote within a quote then it is standard practice to use single marks on the outside and double for the inner quote (this is reversed in the US with single marks being used for the inner quote).

‘Does anyone know who “Antigoon” is?’

There is often confusion around how other punctuation marks are placed in sentences which contain quotes. The general rule of thumb is that the additional punctuation marks should only be included within the quote if they apply to the quote rather than the sentence itself (in the US commas and full stops are included within the closing punctuation mark regardless). Examples:

The oracle said, ‘Let the swan be your guide’. (US version: The oracle said, “Let the swan be your guide.”)

‘What does he want from us?’ asked the townsfolk.

Why does he say ‘blood boil’?

When quoting speech each speaker should have their own paragraph. If one quote is very long and contains more than one paragraph it’s necessary to include a new opening mark at the start of each paragraph but not to close at the end.

Interpolation such as ‘he said’ should be separated using commas and can come at the start, middle or end of the quote:

He said, ‘my name is Brabo, and I come with one request’.

‘My name is Brabo, and I come with one request,’ he said.

‘My name is Brabo,’ he said, ‘and I come with one request’.

NB: It is common practice to use a comma before the quotation (after ‘he said’) but this is optional. If the original quote had been ‘My name is Brabo and I come with one request’, then the middle comma in option three moves to outside the closing quotation mark:

‘My name is Brabo’, he said, ‘and I come with one request’.

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