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Niall from Luton gets confused about quote marks and asked for some advice: I see some people use quote marks like these ‘ ’ and others use the ones that look like this “ ”. How can I find out which ones to use and does it matter?
As you’ve shown in your email, there are two different types of quotation marks: single and double. Double quotation marks are now used less than they were in the past, but some magazines and publishers still favour them over the single marks.
The best way to decide which to use is to check the house style of your target market to see which they prefer. If you’re planning to approach a magazine, finding out which they use is as simple as opening a recent copy and looking at the content.
However, if you are planning to submit a manuscript to a publisher or agent, very often they will have their desired formatting style on the submissions pages of their websites. If the guidelines don’t stipulate one or the other, I would simply use the style with which you feel most comfortable.
Do bear in mind that whichever marks you use for direct speech, you would then use the opposite quotation marks to quote 'speech within speech'.
‘I’m praying Jack hasn’t started drinking again. When he left this morning he said, “I’m going to the supermarket.” That was hours ago and he should have returned by now.’
The double quotation marks show that someone is being quoted word for word. If you use double quotation marks for the main speech, use singles for the ‘speech within speech’.
Other uses for quotation marks:
Idiomatic expressions, for example: He was always referred to as a ‘pain in the neck’. Note that when quotation marks are used in this manner the full stop or comma comes outside the marks, but if quotation marks are used for dialogue the full stop or comma comes inside the marks.
When quoting the title of a magazine article: ‘The Generation Game’ in Spanish Magazine, March 2007.
(The above answer was partly taken from The Writer’s ABC Checklist)
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