Inverted commas

Inverted commas can be single - ‘x’ - or double - "x". They are also known as quotation marks, speech marks, or quotes.

Main uses

Inverted commas are mainly used in the following cases:
  • to mark the beginning and end of direct speech (i.e. a speaker’s words written down exactly as they were spoken):
‘That,’ he said, ‘is nonsense.’
‘What time will he arrive?’ she asked.
See more information about how to use punctuation when you’re writing direct speech.
  • to mark off a word or phrase that’s being discussed, or that’s being directly quoted from somewhere else:
He called this phenomenon ‘the memory of water’.
What does ‘integrated circuit’ mean?
  • (also known as scare quotes) to draw attention to an unusual, ironic, or arguably inaccurate use:
Thank you for that unhelpful 'advice'.
His 'car' was hardly road-worthy at all.
Single or double?
There’s no rule about which to use but you should stick to one or the other throughout a piece of writing. Single inverted commas are generally more common in British English while American English tends to prefer double ones.
If you find that you need to enclose quoted material within direct speech or another quotation, use the style you haven’t used already. So, if you’ve been using single inverted commas, put any further quoted material within double ones and vice versa. For example:
She still sounds amazed when she says: ‘We were turned down because “we represented too small a minority of the population”. They could still get away with saying things like that then.’
Back to punctuation.
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