Specific Quotation Mark Rules

     Most of us have a solid grasp on how quotations marks work especially when they’re used for direct quotes, but every and now and then I find myself hung up on specific, quotation mark related issues. Here’s a list of the rules that I have trouble remembering:

1. When you’re doing a large quote that spans multiple paragraphs, you only put a quotation mark at the start of each paragraph until the quote ends.

     Here’s a silly example:
“Jan and Bob were an adventurous couple that loved climbing mountains. One day they decided to climb the tallest mountain in their rural state, so they packed up their car and started to drive. Once they got there, they realized they had forgot to pack water bottles. Reluctantly (and a little perturbed), Bob admitted that they needed to drive back to the nearest town and buy some water.

     “The town was quiet. When they entered the corner store, they saw that no one was behind the counter. What a poor way to run a business. They split up. While Jan looked around the store for appropriate snacks and a couple of bottles of water, Bob made it his mission to find the cashier.”

2. Quotation marks are used to surround shorter works, like short stories, poems, and essays.

3. Don’t use quotation marks to emphasize words. This gets confusing since some people like to use quotation marks as a sign of irony.

4. You probably shouldn’t use quotation marks for irony either. Some people suggest that this is lazy writing and that you should be able to find a better word to express your intentions. Sounds like a good challenge to me.

5. When you have a quote within a quote, use the singular quotation mark.


     “Last time I saw Mary she said, ‘I hate Joanne, she never stops talking.’”

     Really, these all seem like simple little rules, but at least if they’re listed all in one place I won’t have to search around when I forget them later on (and neither will you).