You’re probably familiar with quotation marks - those double scoops in the air, used before and after we relay something someone said or wrote, verbatim. Pretty standard in writing (and air quotes). But how about their slimmer offshoot, single quotation marks?
You’re not going to find a ton of rules for using single quotation marks. They simply aren’t used that frequently. Even though there aren’t many rules, these little guys can come in handy and are still worth a quick conversation. So let’s talk.
We weren’t kidding when we said there aren’t many rules. In fact, there are really only two to keep in mind. One involves the more familiar double quotation marks, and the other has to do with headlines.
The most common use of the single quotation mark is when you’re quoting someone within a quotation. You’ve probably seen this format used in different types of essays, books, interviews, and news stories.
Here are some examples to make you more familiar with this primary use of single quotation marks:
Sam exclaimed, “Joe was at the store and bumped into Alexa. When he saw her, he said, 'I hope we’ll see you at the party next Friday,’ but she didn’t know anything about it!”
The news reporter said, "All of the stores on the block have burned down. One shop owner screamed, 'I cannot believe this as happening!' as the flames engulfed her store."
Jason told Mark, "I saw Cynthia the other day, and she said, 'I'm really looking forward to Mark's graduation!’"
Her daughter asked, “Why did you call that man ‘idiot’?”
There aren’t many worksheets to help students practice using single quotation marks so try these tips for finding and creating grammar worksheets for single quotation marks. They’ll help you master single quotation marks with ease!
In a headline single quotation marks are used in place of the standard double quotation marks. So, if the headline includes the title of a song, short story, or a quotation, you would use single quotation marks. Generally, you’ll see this used when the headline is in reference to something someone said.
In the Words of The Beatles, ‘Let it Be'
The President Urges, 'Don't worry America'
Heroic Mom: 'I did it for my kids’
‘No More Taxes’ Promises Candidate
In British usage single quotation marks are used to mark direct speech (with speech within speech marked with double quotation marks) or set off a specific word.
Sometimes you might see a term formatted in single quotation marks in a specific discipline, particularly philosophy or theology. You may be reading a British text, but often specialist terms that are unique to a subject are enclosed in single quotation marks in both American and British English.
If you’re writing in a specific discipline, check with the guidelines of the institution or publication for which you are writing.
The next time you want to quote someone within a quote, call upon your friend, the single quotation mark. That’s probably the most likely scenario where you’ll come upon the single quotation mark.
To beef up your quotation expertise further, learn how to use punctuation correctly with quotation marks. That will help you become an active user of these punctuation marks, instead of a passive observer.