Single Quotation Marks: Use & Rules

We usually see quotation marks in pairs, but have you noticed single quotation marks being used in the newspaper or a book? In this lesson, learn when and how to use single quotation marks.
Single Quotation Marks
Double quotation marks are pretty common. You mostly find them around direct quotations, the exact words of another person used by an author, in books, poems, plays, signs, and posters.
Double Quotes
In fact, it’s so common to find quotation marks in pairs that you might not even realize there are single quotation marks.
single quotes
Double and single quotation marks are both most commonly used with quotations, but these punctuation marks are used in different ways. Single quotation marks are used to mark a quote within a quote or a direct quote in a news story headline.
Marking a Quote within a Quote
The most common way single quotation marks are used is to mark a quote within a quotation.
Imagine your friend Tim showed up at your house with two giant ice cream cones. You asked Tim where the ice cream came from.
In this example, you are restating your friend Tim’s words. Tim is the primary speaker, so his words are enclosed in double quotation marks. But Tim isn’t just speaking his own words, he is also quoting the ice cream man. The words Tim is quoting are enclosed in single quotation marks.
Notice in the example above that the period that ends the sentence goes inside all of the quotation marks. Periods always go inside all quotation marks.
A Question in a Quote
What are your favorite types of books to read? My friends Jane and John disagree about what kinds of books tell the best stories.
In this example, when Jane was speaking she quoted John, so John’s words are marked with single quotation marks.
Notice that the question mark is inside of the single quotation marks. If the quote within a quote is a question, then the question mark is placed inside the single quotation marks. The same is true for exclamation marks.
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