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Grammar and Mechanics: Quotation Marks

Quotation Mark Basics

Quotations marks are used to denote language taken from another author or source. Keep in mind that APA prefers the use of paraphrases over direct quotations. Use direct quotations purposefully and sparingly.

Note the bolding and highlighting used for emphasis in the examples on this page.

Quotation Mark Placement

For titles. If referencing the title of a chapter or smaller section of a larger work, set off the title with quotation marks.

Example: The sixth chapter of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Mechanics of Style, contains information about capitalization, italics, and the use of numbers.

In sentences. When copying language from any source (including published texts, internet resources, marketing or business materials, and test or interview questions) into the manuscript, use quotation marks (and proper citation) to indicate the source. In academic writing, avoid beginning sentences with direct quotations; instead, place the direct quotation in the middle or end of the sentence:

Middle: Paltridge and Starfield (2007) asserted that there is no single right way in which to organize the review of the literature (p. 101) as the organization is often determined by the research question and approach.

End: Ferris (2011) emphasized that teachers need to distinguish in their own minds and in their marking strategies between errors and stylistic differences (p. 80).

For more information about quotation marks, refer to APA 7, Section 6.7 and 8.25-8.36.

Keep in mind that quotations of 40 words or more require block quotation formatting, which does not involve quotation marks.

Quotations and Punctuation

Quotation marks should always face the quoted material. One set of quotation marks will show the beginning of the quote, and the other will show where it ends. Leave no space between the quotation marks and the text they surround.

CORRECT:
Ansarifar et al. (2017) discovered, Abstracts by PhD-level students better approximated those of expert writers (p. 67).

INCORRECT:
Ansarifar et al. (2017) discovered, ” Abstracts by PhD-level students better approximated those of expert writers “ (p. 67).

Note that in this example, the quotation marks are facing the wrong way, and an extra space is added before and after them.

 

INCORRECT: Ansarifar et al. (2017) discovered, Abstracts by PhD-level students better approximated those of expert writers (p. 67).

Note that in this example, the quotation marks are missing.

 

The end punctuation of the sentence should always go after a parenthetical citation.

CORRECT: Ansarifar et al. (2017) discovered, “Abstracts by PhD-level students better approximated those of expert writers” (p. 67).

INCORRECT: Ansarifar et al. (2017) discovered, “Abstracts by PhD-level students better approximated those of expert writers.” (p. 67).

Note that in this example, the sentence has double punctuation.

 

INCORRECT: Ansarifar et al. (2017) discovered, “Abstracts by PhD-level students better approximated those of expert writers.” (p. 67)

Note that in this example, the period must be moved to after the parentheses so that there are no hanging parentheses.

Capitalization in Quotations

Capitalize the first word of the quotation when it is introduced as dialogue.

Example: Cooley and Lewkowicz (2003) stated, “Although the abstract is the last part of a dissertation to be written, it is generally one of the first the reader will look at” (p. 112).

Note that a comma follows a dialogue tag (i.e., a speaking-related verb) introducing a quotation.

 

Do not capitalize the first word of the quotation when it is integrated into the sentence. This is often the case with that-clauses.

Example: Cooley and Lewkowicz (2003) stated that “although the abstract is the last part of a dissertation to be written, it is generally one of the first the reader will look at” (p. 112).

Note that no comma precedes the quotation in the example above because the quotation is integrated into the sentence via the conjunction "that."

 

Example: According to Cooley and Lewkowicz (2003), “although the abstract is the last part of a dissertation to be written, it is generally one of the first the reader will look at” (p. 112).

Note that the first word in the quotation is not capitalized in this example because the quotation has been integrated into the sentence.

Additional Common Uses of Quotation Marks

Referring to a Letter, Phrase, Word, or Sentence as Itself

Use quotation marks rather than italics to refer to a letter, phrase, word, or sentence as itself.

Example: The participants answered “yes” or “no.”

Linguistic Clarification

Use quotation marks rather than italics to clarify linguistic examples. This is a new rule in APA 7. (APA 6 recommended using italics instead of quotation marks for linguistic examples.)

Example: The student struggled with the use of "their" "they're," and "there."

Introducing a Word or Phrase Used Ironically

Use quotation marks around words or phrases that are presented ironically. Use quotation marks only the first time the words or phrases are used, not for later uses.

Example: There were many instances of "friendly joking" that created a hostile workplace environment.

Do Not Use Quotation Marks in These Instances

Do not use a quotation mark in the following instances.

 

Key Terms

Use italics instead of quotation marks around key terms or scale anchors.

Example: The survey required participants to scale their responses from very bad to very good.
 
Example: For the purposes of this paper, the term participation will be defined as...

Note that after the first time you define a key term, you will format it normally.

Hedging

Do not use quotation marks to hint at a different meaning. Use more precise language instead.

Incorrect: The "orientation" turned out to be only a 2-hour meeting.
 
Correct: The orientation meeting lasted only 2 hours, which was not long enough to cover all topics sufficiently.