Writing Quotes and Speech

When it comes to writing quotes and speech many writers get confused about the use of quotation marks and the placement of closing punctuation.

What makes things even more confusing is that these same elements are used differently in different countries.

Quotation marks are mostly used to show direct speech and to quote the work of other writers. They are also used for song titles, journal article titles, unpublished document titles, chapter titles of published works, essays, lectures, and to draw attention to certain words (sometimes called scare quotes).

According to the Style manual for authors, editors and printers (6th edn) single quotation marks are used in Australian government publications, with a push towards this minimalistic use of punctuation to be accepted across the board. Whereas in America, double quotation marks are preferred.

When closing quotations, the decision of where to place the closing punctuation can be a tricky one. If the punctuation mark is part of the quote, keep it inside the quotation mark. If it is not, place it outside the quotation mark.

Though interestingly this is in direct contrast to what is followed in America, with most closing punctuation being place inside the quotation mark.


‘I do love you’, she replied. (Australian)

“I do love you,” she replied. (American)

Notice the difference in the closing quotation marks, one being before the punctuation and the other being after.

It is not necessary to use quotation marks with indirect speech, to enclose familiar expressions, or when following the expression so called.

Quotations that are more than thirty words long should be indented from the margin and set in a smaller type, and do not require any quotation marks (but remember to cite your source).

If at all possible it is best to follow the required style of the intended publication, as the editor will most likely change all of the punctuation to their house style anyway. But if all else fails and the writer is still confused, just sticking to the style they know best should get them through.

Kristy Taylor is a syndicated freelance journalist with articles and short stories strewn across all forms of media. She has written and published numerous books, and is the executive editor of KT Publishing, which encompasses several web sites. For free listings of short story competitions visit http://www.shortstorycompetitions.com

To contact Kristy, email her at mail@kristytaylor.com

This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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