When do writers use single quotation marks?
- In NON-Fiction AP style – that is, if you’re writing a newspaper article and the editor puts a title of a book or other such piece of work in the headline
- In languages other than AMERICAN English – like, Queen’s or British-style
- In quotes within quotes
Pay Attention, Authors!
If you’re writing an American English piece of literature no matter the style or genre or length, you only use a single quote mark when one of your characters is quoting something while speaking. Seriously. That’s it.
Please, I beg you, Horatio—nevermore use a single quotation mark by its little itty bitty self. There may be an exception, but just…really, don’t do it. Okay?
If you’re using “air” quotes – double; if you’re using internal and feel like you have to use a mark – double; if you’re going for emphasis, gently, once in a very great while – italics.
Maude uncurled her long legs from the chair and pushed upward. “Honestly, Rupert, if I’d wanted to hear another method of movement, I would have called Helen. She’s always telling us to ‘get a wiggle on,’ or some such nonsense.”
Rupert guffawed. “Ha! Just the other day she told me to move my ‘blooming arse.’ Said she’d heard it in a movie.”
“Ye-es,” Maude drawled. “My Fair Lady. Elisa tries to show how refined she’s become until she attends a race and is about to lose a bet. She ‘shocks’ some of the ladies with her course language, though the ‘gentlemen’ get quite a kick.”
By Lisa Lickel
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