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.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Misusing Dialogue Tags

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Misusing Dialogue Tags

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is misusing dialogue tags.

Poetic Forms

Boketto: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, Walter J. Wojtanik shares his relatively new form, the boketto.

Paul Neilan: On Implementing Dark Humor

Paul Neilan: On Implementing Dark Humor

In this article, author Paul Neilan explains how he came up with the idea for his mystery and dark comedy novel The Hollywood Spiral.

WD-Poetry-2020-WinnerGraphic

Deborah Hall, 2020 Writer's Digest Poetry Awards Winner

The winner of the 2020 Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards discusses the inspiration behind her first-place poem, “The Loneliest Whale."

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Split Up

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Split Up

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have your characters split up.

Kerry Winfrey: On Writing a Romance that's Cozy and Comforting

Kerry Winfrey: On Writing a Romance that's Cozy and Comforting

Author Kerry Winfrey wrote her latest romance, Very Sincerely Yours, during the 2020 pandemic to comfort herself. Here, she's explaining why that tone is important for readers.

WD-Poetry-2020-WinnerGraphic

The 2020 Writer's Digest Poetry Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 WD Poetry Awards!

GettyImages-163437242

Your Story #113

Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo prompt. You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

E.J. Levy: When Your First Draft is Your Best Draft

E.J. Levy: When Your First Draft is Your Best Draft

Author E.J. Levy discusses her journey with drafting and redrafting her historical fiction novel, The Cape Doctor, and why her first draft was her best draft.