Single Quotes or Double Quotes?

It can be confusing to know where to use quotation marks. Writers are familiar with using quotes for sentences but what about thoughts? What about words with another meaning? This is simply a question of style, and what country you live in. The British do it opposite of Americans.  Single or double quotation marks denote either speech or quotation. Neither style—single or double—is an absolute rule, although double quotation marks are preferred in the United States. (

A few general rules:

  1. For quotes within quotes—“Why did she call the man a ‘traitor’?” 
  2. For ‘scare quotes’ —terms used in a nonstandard, ironic, or other special sense.  Quotation marks used around a word or phrase when they are not required, thereby eliciting attention or doubts.

“Putting the term ‘global warming’ in scare quotes serves to subtly cast doubt on the reality of such a phenomenon.”

  1. If you have a scare quote at the end of a quotation, you use all three quotations: I told you he was ‘snarky.’”

     4. In much specialist writing, including linguistics, philosophy, and theology, terms with particular meanings that are unique to that subject are often enclosed in single quotation marks:   The inner margins of a book are called the ‘gutter.’


  • You do not need opening and closing quotation marks to punctuate material set off from the main text as a block quotation.
  • Thoughts do not need quotations. You ‘may’ use italics if desired.
  • Punctuation ALWAYS GOES INSIDE the quotation.
  • The main thing is to keep them consistent throughout the manuscript.

What About Curly Quotes vs. Straight Quotes?

 In Microsoft, straight quotes are changed to curly (or ‘smart’ quotes). Does it matter which you use? Only if you want to publish a digital book. KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) requires curly or ‘smart’ quotes. Learn how to turn on this feature in your Microsoft Word program. Perform a find and replace to change all of them at once!


1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.