Quotes Within Quotes

Author:
Publish date:

Q: When should I use single quotes instead of double quotes?—John Batson

A: Double quotation marks signify the exact words of someone else speaking in your writing. Single quotation marks come into play when the person you’re quoting quotes someone or something else.

Look at this example:

“I’m irritated with Dad right now,” said my sister. “Last week he said to me, ‘Jennie, if you don’t wash your own clothes, I’m going to start throwing them in the backyard.’ Last night I found my favorite shirt hanging from the bird-feeder.”

The writer is quoting his sister, Jennie. She gets the double quote marks credited to her speech. But while Jennie is talking, she quotes her dad. His words (which she’s reciting) get the single marks.

As sentences become more complicated with multiple quotes, the rule is to alternate between double and single marks.

“I talked to Mom last night and she said, ‘I agree with your father. And when he says, “I’m going to throw your clothes in the backyard,” he means it.’ This is laundry war!”

So use single quotes only inside double quotes. And you can quote me on that—as long as you use the correct set of marks.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwpubs.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

FightWrite_12:04

FightWrite™: Crime Fiction and Violence

Author and trained fighter Carla Hoch answers a writer's question about writing from the perspective of criminals and when best to utilize a fight.

Poetic Forms

Sedoka: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the sedoka, a 6-line question and answer Japanese form.

plot_twist_story_prompts_dream_sequence_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Dream Sequence

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your characters dream a little dream.

WD Vintage_Armour 12:03

Vintage WD: Don't Hide Your Light Verse Under a Bushel

In this article from 1960, poet and author Richard Armour explores the importance of light verse and gives helpful hints to the hopeful poet.

Arlen_12:1

Tessa Arlen: On Polite Editorial Tussles and Unraveling Mysteries

In this article, author Tessa Arlen explains how to navigate the differences between American and English audiences and create a realistic historical mystery.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 547

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a lazy poem.

Williams_12:1

Denise Williams: Romance, Healing, and Learning to Love Revisions

Author Denise Williams recounts her experience with writing her first book while learning about the publishing industry and the biggest surprise about novel revisions.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 13th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.