Introduction to Quotation Marks


Quotation marks (“exact words” or “Title”) surround another person’s exact words, typically as evidence to support a main idea . Quotation marks are also used to show dialogue between characters in novels or short stories. Finally, quotation marks surround the title of short works.

In academic and professional writing, quotation marks are most common when using exact words, which is called direct quotation. Direct quotation means repeating word for word from a source—a book, a Web page, a movie, an article, or a person who was interviewed. The use of quotation marks tells readers that the words are not yours. They show that you respect others’ ideas and words and that you can appropriately include them in your own essays.

Appropriate use of another person’s words or ideas also involves documentation. Documentation or citation requires following specific rules in order to tell readers where they can find the source. In academic writing, you are obligated to include information about how to find the source in two places:

This unit introduces direct quotations and paraphrases. It also discusses the blended paraphrase, a paraphrase that uses some of the distinct wording from the original source. Another unit covers ways of working with sources and documentation practices in more depth.


This video shows how to use quotation marks with exact words (when quoting and in dialogue) as well as with the titles of short works, which is important in documentation.

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Quotation marks surround exact words from a source or in dialogue; they also surround the titles of short works. Two kinds of errors are common with quotations marks:

An ethical failure with quotation marks is called plagiarism. Plagiarism means failing to indicate that you have borrowed words and ideas from a source in such a way that readers can locate the source themselves. As a writer, you can borrow another’s words and ideas in three ways:

Each method requires that you document your sources by providing in-text citation (also called parenthetical citation) and bibliographic citation. The format of your in-text and bibliographic citation depends on the style such as MLA or APA.

To avoid plagiarism, it is important to follow the guidelines developed for each way of using a source. Here, for instance, is an example of how to correct a direct quotation that lacks quotation marks.


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Notice how the correction includes the following elements:

This example demonstrates correct direct quotation with in-text citation. In an essay, this direct quotation also requires bibliographic citation to avoid plagiarism, an ethical error.

As the discussion of the previous example indicates, the mechanics or rules of using quotation marks are very detailed. A mechanical error with quotation marks occurs when a writer mistakenly puts commas, colons, and citation information on the wrong side of the quotation mark.

Quotation marks come in pairs. Some punctuation and elements belong inside the pair. Consider this example:


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The correction shows that a period goes “inside.” In this example of dialogue, the period ends the complete sentence of the instructor’s warning and the overall sentence surrounding the quotation.

Other punctuation and elements belong outside the pair. For instance, the in-text citation goes outside: “inside” (author #). This unit shows you how to use periods, commas, semicolons, and other punctuation with quotation marks.


The study pages examine the options for using quotation marks with direct quotation, paraphrases, and blended quotations. They also address the rules about other punctuation with quotation marks.

As you read through the study pages, examine each part of sentence that includes a direct quotation as demonstrated above. By learning the required parts and how quotation marks work with other punctuation, you’ll perform better on the post-test (if assigned) and in your own writing.

Don’t forget to work smartly!