Module 13, Punctuation: Quotation Marks, Lesson 3:

More on Quotation Marks with Dialogue


Questions or Exclamations with Quotations

If the author, not the speaker, is asking a question or exclaiming something, the question mark or exclamation mark goes outside the quotation marks because it isn't part of the original quotation. It's not necessary to put any additional punctuation, such as a period or comma, inside the quotation marks.

Did your mother say, "Yes, you can go"?
I can't believe she said, "Yes"!

Paragraphing Dialogue

Authors start a new paragraph each time the speaker changes in order to help the reader keep track of who is speaking.

"I can't believe you said that!" exclaimed Carlos as he walked home from school with his best friend, Peter.
"Of course I said it! I'll always stick up for you," Peter told him.
"Just like I'll always stick up for you."
"So why are you so surprised?"

Because of the indentions, you can tell that Carlos spoke, then Peter, then Carlos, then Peter again, without the author having to state who spoke every single time.

Multi-Paragraph Dialogue

When quoting several paragraphs of dialogue that aren't interrupted by the author or another speaker, put an opening quotation mark at the beginning of each paragraph and just one closing quotation mark at the end of the last paragraph.

Maci explained what happened. "We were afraid that our cat, Jet, had escaped because the front door had been left open. We went up and down the street calling his name and asking people if they had seen a small black cat.

"When it got dark, we went home. Jessie sat down on the couch and felt a lump under the blanket. She lifted up the edge of the blanket, and there was Jet, sound asleep."

Quotes Within Quotes

If the author quotes a speaker who quotes another speaker, use double quotation marks around the first speakers words, and single quotation marks around the second speaker's words. In other words, for a quote within the quote, use single quotation marks.

Quoting one person: Our teacher told us, "This assignment is due Friday."
Quote within a quote: Tracy said, "Our teacher told us, 'This assignment is due Friday.'"

Emphasizing Words

It's best not to use quotation marks for emphasis or for "words used as words." Most style guides recommend using italics instead.

Example: You used the word then too often in your essay.


Nicknames are generally enclosed in quotation marks.

Her name is Elizabeth, but she has always been called "Beth."

Using Words in Unconventional Ways

Sometimes people use quotation marks to indicate that a word is being used in an ironic, sarcastic, or unusual way.

I spent my "vacation" working hard.
This person probably spent his or her vacation time working, so the word vacation is being used ironically.


Quotation marks can be used when writing the translation of a word. The foreign word is usually written in italics.

Example: Although gelato translates to "ice cream," the two desserts are not exactly the same.

Prime and Double Prime Marks

Quotation marks used to show feet and inches are called prime (') and double prime (") marks.

5 feet, 10 inches ⇒ 5'10".

Note: The period always goes outside the double prime mark, not inside. In American English, this is the only time the period goes outside a quotation mark.

Practice What You've Learned

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Insert quotation marks in each of the following sentences by clicking the spaces before and after the appropriate words.
" Are " you " sure " she " said, " The " game " is " at " two " o'clock "? "
" When " did " mother " say, " You " must " be " home " by " ten "? "
" Did " you " say, " The " stones " at " Stonehenge " are " over " five " thousand " years " old "? "
" I " can't " believe " Ariel " said,' I'd' love' to,' when " Mark " asked " her " out, " remarked " Angel. "
" She " wrote " on " the " letter " Confidential. "
" Heather " said, " I " heard " Lana " say,' I'm' deathly' allergic' to' peanuts,' when " David " asked " her " to " try " the " peanut " butter " cookies. "
" Wait " for " me! " he " shouted " as " he " ran " for " the " bus. "
" I " had " a " great " time " last " night " waiting " in " the " rain " for " you " for " two " hours. "
" All " together! " yelled " the " leader. " Pull " with " all " your " might! "
" Today " we " went " to " the " mall, " explained " Kyle, " where " we " met " up " with " some " friends. " We " went " to " see " a " movie " and " then " got " something " to " eat " at " the " food " court. "
" Tomorrow " we " are " going " to " the " park " to " play " Frisbee " and " have " a " picnic. " We " will " stop " at " the " grocery " store " on " our " way " home. "