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Quotation marks (also known as quotes or inverted commas) are used to indicate direct speech and quotations.

In academic writing, you need to use quotation marks when you quote a source. This includes quotes from published works and primary data such as interviews. The exception is when you use a block quote, which should be set off and indented without quotation marks.

Whenever you quote someone else’s words, use a signal phrase to introduce it and integrate the source into your own text. Don’t rely on quotations to make your point for you.

Single vs. double quotation marks

There are two types of quotation marks: ‘single’ and “double.” Which one to choose generally depends on whether you are using US or UK English. The US convention is to use double quotation marks, while the UK convention is usually to use single quotation marks.

Single vs. double quotation marks

US English UK English

Uran describes the results as “promising.”

Uran describes the results as ‘promising’.

Double quotation marks can also be acceptable in UK English, provided you are consistent throughout the text. APA Style requires double quotations.

Quotes within quotes

When your quotations are nested (i.e., a quote appears inside another quote), you should use the opposite style of quotation marks for the nested quotation.

Quotes within quotes in US and UK English

US English UK English

According to Uran, “Writing in the field is oversaturated with jargon terms like ‘agile learning.’”

According to Uran, ‘Writing in the field is oversaturated with jargon terms like “agile learning”’.

Punctuation following quotations

US and UK English also differ on where to place punctuation within quotation marks.

In US English, commas and periods that follow a quote are placed within the quotation marks.

In UK English, all punctuation marks are placed outside the quotation marks, except when they are part of the original quotation.

Punctuation placement with quotes in US and UK English

US English UK English

Solis described the situation as “precarious.”

Solis described the situation as ‘precarious’.

In all variants of English, a question mark appears inside the quotation marks when the person quoted was asking a question, but outside when it’s you asking the question.

Smith asks, “How long can this situation continue?”

How many participants reported their satisfaction as “high”?

Note that when you include a parenthetical citation after a quote, the punctuation mark always comes after the citation (except with block quotes).

Solis described the situation as “precarious” (2023, p. 16).

Quotation marks for source titles

Some source titles (e.g., the title of a journal article) should be presented in quotation marks in your text. Others are italicized instead (or occasionally written in plain text).

The rules for how to format different source titles are largely the same across citation styles, though some details differ. The key principles apply in all the main styles:

Use italics for sources that stand alone

Use quotation marks for sources that are part of another source

Some examples are shown below, with the proper formatting:

The Routledge Companion to Critical Theory [book]

“Poststructuralism” [book chapter]

Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology [journal]

“What Is Personality Disorder?” [journal article]

Friends [TV series]

“The One Where Rachel Quits” [TV episode]

Indirect quotation

Indirect quotation means reporting what someone said without using exactly the same words they did.

It’s a lot like paraphrasing, except that you’re only changing the words you need to in order to fit the statement into your new sentence grammatically. For example, changing the pronouns or the verb tense.

Indirect quotation is more common in everyday speech, but it can occur in academic writing too. When it does, keep in mind that you should only use quotation marks around words taken directly from the original speaker or author.

One participant stated that “he found the exercises frustrating.”

One participant stated that he found the exercises frustrating.

One participant described the exercises as “frustrating.”

Scare quotes

“Scare quotes” are quotation marks used around words that are not a direct quotation from a specific source. They are used to signal that a term is being used in an unusual or ironic way, that it is borrowed from someone else, or that the writer is skeptical about the term.

Many politicians have blamed recent electoral trends on the rise of “fake news.”

While scare quotes have their uses in academic writing (e.g., when referring to controversial terms), they should only be used with good reason. Inappropriate use of scare quotes creates ambiguity.

The institution organized a fundraiser in support of “underprivileged children.”

Scientists argue that “global warming” is accelerating due to greenhouse gas emissions.

The “Brexit” negotiations are still ongoing.

In these examples, the words within scare quotes are widely accepted terms with clear meanings that can’t be attributed to a specific person or source. Using quotation marks implies skepticism about the concepts in question.

Frequently asked questions about quotation marks Sources in this article

We strongly encourage students to use sources in their work. You can cite our article (APA Style) or take a deep dive into the articles below.

This Scribbr article

McCombes, S. Retrieved July 19, 2023,

Cite this article


Butterfield, J. (Ed.). (2023). Fowler’s dictionary of modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Garner, B. A. (2023). Garner’s modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

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