Quotation marks, also known as quotes, quote marks, speech marks, inverted commas, or talking marks, are punctuation marks used in pairs in various writing systems to set off direct speech, a quotation, or a phrase. The pair consists of an opening quotation mark and a closing quotation mark, which may or may not be the same character.
Quotation marks have a variety of forms in different languages and in different media.
The single quotation mark is traced to Ancient Greek practice, adopted and adapted by monastic copyists. Isidore of Seville, in his seventh century encyclopedia, Etymologiae, described their use of the Greek diplé (a chevron):
 ⟩ Diplé. Our copyists place this sign in the books of the people of the Church, to separate or to indicate the quotations drawn from the Holy Scriptures.
The double quotation mark derives from a marginal notation used in fifteenth-century manuscript annotations to indicate a passage of particular importance (not necessarily a quotation); the notation was placed in the outside margin of the page and was repeated alongside each line of the passage. In his edition of the works of Aristotle, which appeared in 1483 or 1484, the Milanese Renaissance humanist Francesco Filelfo marked literal and appropriate quotes with oblique double dashes on the left margin of each line. Until then, literal quotations had been highlighted or not at the author's discretion. Non-verbal loans were marked on the edge. After the publication of Filelfo's edition, the quotation marks for literal quotations prevailed. During the seventeenth century this treatment became specific to quoted material, and it grew common, especially in Britain, to print quotation marks (now in the modern opening and closing forms) at the beginning and end of the quotation as well as in the margin; the French usage (see under Specific language features below) is a remnant of this. In most other languages, including English, the marginal marks dropped out of use in the last years of the eighteenth century. The usage of a pair of marks, opening and closing, at the level of lower case letters was generalized.
By the nineteenth century, the design and usage began to be specific to each region. In Western Europe the custom became to use the quotation mark pairs with the convexity of each mark aimed outward. In Britain those marks were elevated to the same height as the top of capital letters: “…”.
In France, by the end of the nineteenth century, the marks were modified to an angular shape: «…». Some authors claim that the reason for this was a practical one, in order to get a character that was clearly distinguishable from the apostrophes, the commas, and the parentheses. Also, in other scripts, the angular quotation marks are distinguishable from other punctuation characters: the Greek breathing marks, the Armenian emphasis and apostrophe, the Arabic comma, the decimal separator, the thousands separator, etc. Other authors claim that the reason for this was an aesthetic one. The elevated quotation marks created an extra white space before and after the word that was considered aesthetically unpleasing, while the in-line quotation marks helped to maintain the typographical color, since the quotation marks had the same height and were aligned with the lower case letters. Nevertheless, while other languages do not insert a space between the quotation marks and the word(s), the French usage does insert them, even if it is a narrow space.
The curved quotation marks ("66-99") usage, “…”, was exported to some non-Latin scripts, notably where there was some English influence, for instance in Native American scripts and Indic scripts. On the other hand, Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic and Ethiopic adopted the French "angular" quotation marks, «…». The Far East angle bracket quotation marks, 《…》, are also a development of the in-line angular quotation marks.
In Central Europe, however, the practice was to use the quotation mark pairs with the convexity aimed inward. The German tradition preferred the curved quotation marks, the first one at the level of the commas, the second one at the level of the apostrophes: „…“. Alternatively, these marks could be angular and in-line with lower case letters, but still pointing inward: »…«. Some neighboring regions adopted the German curved marks tradition with lower–upper alignment, while some adopted a variant with the convexity of the closing mark aimed rightward like the opening one, „…”.
In Eastern Europe, there was hesitation between the French tradition «…» and the German tradition „…“. The French tradition prevailed in Northeastern Europe (specifically in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), whereas the German tradition, or its modified version with the convexity of the closing mark aimed rightward, has become dominant in Southeastern Europe, e.g. in the Balkan countries.
The reemergence of single quotation marks around 1800 came about as a means of indicating a secondary level of quotation. In some languages using the angular quotation marks, the usage of the single guillemet, ‹…›, became obsolete, being replaced by double curved ones: “…”, though the single ones still survive, for instance, in Switzerland. In Eastern Europe, the curved quotation marks, „…“, are used as a secondary level when the angular marks, «…» are used as a primary level.
In English writing, quotation marks are placed in pairs around a word or phrase to indicate:
In American writing, quotation marks are normally the double kind (the primary style). If quotation marks are used inside another pair of quotation marks, then single quotation marks are used. For example: If another set of quotation marks is nested inside single quotation marks, double quotation marks are used again, and they continue to alternate as necessary (though this is rarely done)."Didn't she say 'I like red best' when I asked her wine preferences?" he asked his guests.
British publishing is regarded as more flexible about whether double or single quotation marks should be used. A tendency to use single quotation marks in British writing is thought to have arisen after the mid-19th century invention of steam-powered presses and the consequent rise of London and New York as distinct, industrialized publishing centers whose publishing houses adhered to separate norms. However, The King's English in 1908 noted that the prevailing British practice was to use double marks for most purposes, and single ones for quotations within quotations. Different media now follow different conventions in the United Kingdom.
Different varieties and styles of English have different conventions regarding whether terminal punctuation should be written inside or outside the quotation marks. North American printing usually puts full stops and commas (but not colons, semicolons, exclamation or question marks) inside the closing quotation mark, whether it is part of the original quoted material or not. Styles elsewhere vary widely and have different rationales for placing it inside or outside, often a matter of house style.
The closing single quotation mark is identical in form to the apostrophe and similar to the prime symbol. The double quotation mark is identical to the ditto mark in English-language usage. It is also similar to—and often used to represent—the double prime symbol. However, the quotation marks, the apostrophe, and the prime serve quite different purposes.
Other languages have similar conventions to English, but use different symbols or different placement.
Contemporary Bulgarian employs em dash or quotation horizontal bar ( followed by a space characer) at the beginning of each direct-speech segment by a different character in order to mark direct speech in prose and in most journalistic question and answer interviews; in such cases, the use of standard quotation marks is left for in-text citations or to mark the names of institutions, companies, and sometimes also brand or model names.
Air quotes are also widely used in face-to-face communication in contemporary Bulgarian but usually resemble
" ... " (secondary:
' ... ') unlike written Bulgarian quotation marks.
The standard form in the preceding table is taught in schools and used in handwriting. Most large newspapers have kept these low-high quotation marks, „ and ”, but otherwise the alternative form with single or double English-style quotes is now often the only form seen in printed matter. Neutral (straight) quotation marks, " and ', are used widely, especially in texts typed on computers and on websites.
Although not generally common in the Netherlands any more, double angle (guillemet) quotation marks are still sometimes used in Belgium. Examples include the Flemish HUMO magazine and the Metro newspaper in Brussels.
The symbol used as the left (typographical) quote in English is used as the right quote in Germany and Austria and a "low double comma" „ (not used in English) is used for the left quote. Its single quote form ‚ looks like a comma.
Some fonts, e.g. Verdana, were not designed with the flexibility to use an English left quote as a German right quote. Such fonts are therefore typographically incompatible with this German usage.
Sometimes, especially in novels, guillemets (angle quotation mark sets) are used in Germany and Austria (albeit in reversed order compared to French): »A ›B‹?«
Alternatively, an en-dash followed by a (non-breaking) space can be used to denote the beginning of quoted speech, in which case the end of the quotation is not specifically denoted (see section Quotation dash below). A line-break should not be allowed between the en-dash and the first word of the quotation.
French uses angle quotation marks (guillemets, or duck-foot quotes), adding a 'quarter-em space'[a] within the quotes. However, many people now use the non-breaking space, because the difference between a non-breaking space and a four-per-em is virtually imperceptible (but also because the Unicode quarter-em space is breakable), and the quarter-em glyph is omitted from many fonts. Even more commonly, many people just put a normal (breaking) space between the quotation marks because the non-breaking space cannot be accessed easily from the keyboard; furthermore, many are simply not aware of this typographical refinement. Using the wrong type of space often results in a quotation mark appearing alone at the beginning of a line, since the quotation mark is treated as an independent word.
Sometimes, for instance on several French news sites such as Libération, Les Échos or Le Figaro, no space is used around the quotation marks. This parallels normal usage in other languages, e.g. Catalan, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, or in German, French and Italian as written in Switzerland:
Initially, the French guillemet characters were not angle shaped but also used the comma (6/9) shape. They were different from English quotes because they were standing (like today's guillemets) on the baseline (like lowercase letters), and not above it (like apostrophes and English quotation marks) or hanging down from it (like commas). At the beginning of the nineteenth century, this shape evolved to look like (( small parentheses )). The angle shape appeared later to increase the distinction and avoid confusions with apostrophes, commas and parentheses in handwritten manuscripts submitted to publishers. Unicode currently does not provide alternate codes for these 6/9 guillemets on the baseline, as they are considered to be form variants of guillemets, implemented in older French typography (such as the Didot font design). Also there was not necessarily any distinction of shape between the opening and closing guillemets, with both types pointing to the right (like today's French closing guillemets).
They must be used with non-breaking spaces, preferably narrow, if available, i.e. U+202F narrow no-break space which is present in all up-to-date general-purpose fonts, but still missing in some computer fonts from the early years of Unicode, due to the belated encoding of U+202F (1999) after the flaw of not giving U+2008 punctuation space non-breakable property as it was given to the related U+2007 figure space.
Legacy support of narrow non-breakable spaces was done at rendering level only, without interoperability as provided by Unicode support. High-end renderers as found in Desktop Publishing software should therefore be able to render this space using the same glyph as the breaking thin space U+2009, handling the non-breaking property internally in the text renderer/layout engine, because line-breaking properties are never defined in fonts themselves; such renderers should also be able to infer any width of space, and make them available as application controls, as is done with justifying/non-justifying.
In old-style printed books, when quotations span multiple lines of text (including multiple paragraphs), an additional closing quotation sign is traditionally used at the beginning of each line continuing a quotation; any right-pointing guillemet at the beginning of a line does not close the current quotation. This convention has been consistently used since the beginning of the 19th century by most book printers, but is no longer in use today. Such insertion of continuation quotation marks occurred even if there is a word hyphenation break. Given this feature has been obsoleted, there is no support for automatic insertion of these continuation guillemets in HTML or CSS, nor in word-processors. Old-style typesetting is emulated by breaking up the final layout with manual line breaks, and inserting the quotation marks at line start, much like pointy brackets before quoted plain text e-mail:
Unlike English, French does not set off unquoted material within a quotation by using a second set of quotation marks. Compare:« C’est une belle journée pour les Montréalais, soutient le ministre. Ces investissements stimuleront la croissance économique. »« C’est une belle journée pour les Montréalais, soutient le ministre. Ces investissements stimuleront la croissance économique. »
The French Imprimerie nationale (cf. Lexique des règles typographiques en usage à l'Imprimerie nationale, presses de l'Imprimerie nationale, Paris, 2002) does not use different quotation marks for nesting quotes:
In this case, when there should be two adjacent opening or closing marks, only one is written:
The use of English quotation marks is increasing in French and usually follows English rules, for instance in situations when the keyboard or the software context doesn't allow the use of guillemets. The French news site L'Humanité uses straight quotation marks along with angle ones.
But the most frequent convention used in printed books for nested quotations is to style them in italics. Single quotation marks are much more rarely used, and multiple levels of quotations using the same marks is often considered confusing for readers:
Further, running speech does not use quotation marks beyond the first sentence, as changes in speaker are indicated by a dash, as opposed to the English use of closing and re-opening the quotation. (For other languages employing dashes, see section Quotation dash below.) The dashes may be used entirely without quotation marks as well. In general, quotation marks are extended to encompass as much speech as possible, including not just nonverbal text such as “he said” (as previously noted), but also as long as the conversion extends. However, the quotation marks end at the last spoken text rather than extending to the end of paragraphs when the final part is not spoken.« Je ne vous parle pas, monsieur, dit-il. : — Mais je vous parle, moi ! » s’écria le jeune homme exaspéré de ce mélange d’insolence et de bonnes manières, de convenance et de dédain.
A closing quotation mark, », is added to the beginning of each new quoted paragraph.« Η Βικιπαίδεια ή Wikipedia είναι ένα συλλογικό εγκυκλοπαιδικό
» εγχείρημα που έχει συσταθεί στο Διαδίκτυο, παγκόσμιο, πολύγλωσσο,
» που λειτουργεί με την αρχή του wiki. »
When quotations are nested, double and then single quotation marks are used: «…“…‘…’…”…».
According to current recommendation by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences the main Hungarian quotation marks are comma-shaped double quotation marks set on the base-line at the beginning of the quote and at apostrophe-height at the end of it for first level, („Quote”), reversed »French quotes« without space (the German tradition) for the second level, and thus the following nested quotation pattern emerges:
In Hungarian linguistic tradition the meaning of a word is signified by uniform (unpaired) apostrophe-shaped quotation marks:
According to current PN-83/P-55366 standard from 1983 (but not dictionaries, see below), Typesetting rules for composing Polish text (Zasady składania tekstów w języku polskim) one can use either „ordinary Polish quotes” or «French quotes» (without space) for first level, and ‚single Polish quotes’ or «French quotes» for second level, which gives three styles of nested quotes:
The above rules have not changed since at least the previous BN-76/7440-02 standard from 1976 and are probably much older.
However, the part of the rules that concerns the use of guillemets conflicts with the Polish punctuation standard as given by dictionaries, including the Wielki Słownik Ortograficzny PWN recommended by the Polish Language Council. The PWN rules state:
In specific uses, guillemets also appear. Guillemet marks pointing inwards are used for highlights and in case a quotation occurs inside a quotation. Guillemet marks pointing outwards are used for definitions (mainly in scientific publications and dictionaries), as well as for enclosing spoken lines and indirect speech, especially in poetic texts.
In Polish books and publications, this style for use of guillemets (also known as »German quotes«) is used almost exclusively. In addition to being standard for second level quotes, guillemet quotes are sometimes used as first level quotes in headings and titles but almost never in ordinary text in paragraphs.
Another style of quoting is to use an em-dash to open a quote; this is used almost exclusively to quote dialogues, and is virtually the only convention used in works of fiction.
In Portugal, the angular quotation marks (ex. «quote») are traditionally used. They are the Latin tradition quotation marks, used normally by typographers. It is that also the chosen representation for displaying quotation marks in reference sources, and it is also the chosen representation from some sites dedicated to the Portuguese Language.
The Código de Redação for Portuguese-language documents published in the European Union prescribes three levels of quotation marks representation, «…“…‘…’…”…»:E estava escrito «Alguém perguntou “Quem foi que gritou ‘Meu Deus!’?”.» na folha de papel.And it was written “Someone asked ‘Who shouted “My God”!’?”. in the sheet of paper.
However, the usage of English-style (ex. “quote” and ‘quote’) marks is growing in Portugal.[better source needed] That is probably due to the omnipresence of the English language and to the corresponding inability of some machines (mobile phones, cash registers, specific printers, calculators, etc.) to display the angular quotation marks.
In Brazil, however, the usage of angular quotation marks is little known, with almost solely the curved quotation marks (“quote” and ‘quote’) being used. This can be verified, for instance, in the difference between a Portuguese keyboard (which possesses a specific key for « and for ») and a Brazilian keyboard.
The Portuguese-speaking African countries tend to follow Portugal's conventions, not the Brazilian ones.
Other usages of quotation marks (“quote„ for double, ‹quote› for single) are obsolete..
In Belarusian, Russian, and Ukrainian, angled quotation marks are used without spaces. In case of quoted material inside a quotation, rules and most noted style manuals prescribe the use of different kinds of quotation marks. However, Russian rules allow to use the same quotation marks for quoted material inside a quotation, and if inner and outer quotation marks fall together, then one of them should be omitted.
Permissible, when it is technically impossible to use different quotation marks:— Это я, почтальон Печкин, — последовал ответ. — Принёс заметку про вашего мальчика.
Spanish uses angled quotation marks (comillas latinas or angulares) as well, but always without the spaces.«Esto es un ejemplo de cómo se suele hacer una cita literal en español».
And, when quotations are nested in more levels than inner and outer quotation, the system is:
The use of English quotation marks is increasing in Spanish, and the El País style guide, which is widely followed in Spain, recommends them. Hispanic Americans often use them, owing to influence from the United States.
Corner brackets are well-suited for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages which are written in both vertical and horizontal orientations. China, South Korea, and Japan all use corner brackets when writing vertically. However, usages differ when writing horizontally:
White corner brackets are used to mark quote-within-quote segments in case corner brackets are used.
Another typographical style is to omit quotation marks for lines of dialogue, replacing them with an initial dash, as in lines from James Joyce's Ulysses:
This style is particularly common in Bulgarian, French, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Vietnamese. James Joyce always insisted on this style, although his publishers did not always respect his preference. Alan Paton used this style in Cry, the Beloved Country (and no quotation marks at all in some of his later work). Charles Frazier used this style for his novel Cold Mountain as well. Details for individual languages are given above.
The dash is often combined with ordinary quotation marks. For example, in French, a guillemet may be used to initiate running speech, with each change in speaker indicated by a dash, and a closing guillemet to mark the end of the quotation.
In Italian, Catalan, Portuguese, Spanish, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Bulgarian, Georgian, Romanian, Lithuanian and Hungarian, the reporting clause in the middle of a quotation is separated with two additional dashes (also note that the initial quotation dash is followed by a single whitespace character as well as the fact that the additional quotation dashes for the middle main clause after the initial quotation dash are all with a single whitespace character on both of their sides):― Ай, ай, ай! ― вскрикнул Левин. ― Я ведь, кажется, уже лет девять не говел. Я и не подумал.― Хорош! ― смеясь, сказал Степан Аркадевич, ― а меня же называешь нигилистом! Однако ведь это нельзя. Тебе надо говеть.
The Unicode standard introduced a separate character U+2015 ― HORIZONTAL BAR to be used as a quotation dash. In general it is the same length as an em-dash, and so this is often used instead. The main difference between them is that at least some software will insert a line break after an em dash, but not after a quotation dash. Both are displayed in the following table.
'Ambidextrous' or 'straight' quotation marks ' " were introduced on typewriters to reduce the number of keys on the keyboard, and were inherited by computer keyboards and character sets. Some early computer systems had character sets with curved opening and closing quotes. However, the ASCII character set, which has been used on a wide variety of computers since the 1960s, only contains a straight single quote ( U+0027 ' APOSTROPHE) and double quote ( U+0022 " QUOTATION MARK).
Many systems, such as the personal computers of the 1980s and early 1990s, actually drew these ASCII quotes like closing quotes on-screen and in printouts, so text would appear like this (approximately):
These same systems often drew the (free standing) grave accent (`, U+0060) as an 'open quote' glyph (usually a mirror image so it still sloped in the direction of a grave accent). Using this character as the opening quote gave a typographic approximation of curved single quotes. Nothing similar was available for the double quote, so many people resorted to using two single quotes for double quotes, which would look approximately like the following:
The typesetting application TeX uses this convention for input files. The following is an example of TeX input which yields proper curly quotation marks.
In typewriter keyboards, the curved quotation marks were not implemented. Instead, to save space, the straight quotation marks were invented as a compromise. Even in countries that did not use curved quotation marks, angular quotation marks were not implemented either.
Computer keyboards followed the steps of typewriter keyboards. Most computer keyboards do not have specific keys for curved quotation marks or angled quotation marks. This may also have to do with computer character sets:
In languages that use the curved “...” quotation marks, they are available[d] in:
In languages that use the angular «...» quotation marks, they are available[d] in:
In languages that use the corner bracket 「...」 quotation marks, they are available[d] in:
In languages that use the angle bracket 《...》[e] they are available in:
In languages that use the curved „...“ quotation marks, they are available[d] in:
In languages that use the curved „...” quotation marks, they are available[d] in:
In languages that use the curved ”...” quotation marks, they are available[d] in:
Historically, support for curved quotes was a problem in information technology, primarily because the widely used ASCII character set did not include a representation for them.[f]
The term "smart quotes", “…”, is from the name in several word processors of a function aimed this problem: automatically converting straight quotes typed by the user into curved quotes, the feature attempts to be "smart" enough to determine whether the punctuation marked opening or closing. Since curved quotes are the typographically correct ones, word processors have traditionally offered curved quotes to users (at minimum as available characters). Before Unicode was widely accepted and supported, this meant representing the curved quotes in whatever 8-bit encoding the software and underlying operating system was using. The character sets for Windows and Macintosh used two different pairs of values for curved quotes, while ISO 8859-1 (historically the default character set for the Unixes and older Linux systems) has no curved quotes, making cross-platform and -application compatibility difficult.
Performance by these "smart quotes" features was far from perfect overall (variance potential by e.g. subject matter, formatting/style convention, user typing habits). As many word processors (including Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.org) have the function enabled by default, users may not have realized that the ASCII-compatible straight quotes they were typing on their keyboards ended up as something different (conversely users could incorrectly assume its functioning in other applications, e.g. composing emails).
The curved apostrophe is the same character as the closing single quote. "Smart quotes" features, however, wrongly convert initial apostrophes (as in 'tis, 'em, 'til, and '89) into opening single quotes. (An example of this error appears in the advertisements for the television show 'Til Death). The two very different functions of this character can cause confusion, particularly in British styles,[g] in which single quotes are the standard primary.
Unicode support has since become the norm for operating systems. Thus, in at least some cases, transferring content containing curved quotes (or any other non-ASCII characters) from a word processor to another application or platform has been less troublesome, provided all steps in the process (including the clipboard if applicable) are Unicode-aware. But there are still applications which still use the older character sets, or output data using them, and thus problems still occur.
There are other considerations for including curved quotes in the widely used markup languages HTML, XML, and SGML. If the encoding of the document supports direct representation of the characters, they can be used, but doing so can cause difficulties if the document needs to be edited by someone who is using an editor that cannot support the encoding. For example, many simple text editors only handle a few encodings or assume that the encoding of any file opened is a platform default, so the quote characters may appear as the generic replacement character � or "mojibake" (gibberish). HTML includes a set of entities for curved quotes:
‘ (left single),
’ (right single or apostrophe),
‚ (low 9 single),
“ (left double),
” (right double), and
„ (low 9 double). XML does not define these by default, but specifications based on it can do so, and XHTML does. In addition, while the HTML 4, XHTML and XML specifications allow specifying numeric character references in either hexadecimal or decimal, SGML and older versions of HTML (and many old implementations) only support decimal references. Thus, to represent curly quotes in XML and SGML, it is safest to use the decimal numeric character references. That is, to represent the double curly quotes use
”, and to represent single curly quotes use
’. Both numeric and named references function correctly in almost every modern browser. While using numeric references can make a page more compatible with outdated browsers, using named references are safer for systems that handle multiple character encodings (i.e. RSS aggregators and search results).
In Windows file and folder names, the straight double quotation mark is prohibited, as it is a reserved character. The curved quotation marks, as well as the straight single quotation mark, are permitted.
The style of quoting known as Usenet quoting uses the greater-than sign, > prepended to a line of text to mark it as a quote. This convention was later standardized in , and was adopted subsequently by many email clients when automatically including quoted text from previous messages (in plain text mode).
In Unicode, 30 characters are marked
Quotation Mark=Yes by character property. They all have general category "Punctuation", and a subcategory Open, Close, Initial, Final or Other (
Ps, Pe, Pi, Pf, Po). Several other Unicode characters with quotation mark semantics lack the character property.