Punctuation For Beginners: All About Inverted Commas


Welcome to the eighth post in the series: Punctuation For Beginners.

Punctuation is the name for the marks we use in writing. Punctuation marks are tools that have set functions. We use them to give a sentence meaning and rhythm.

(Look out for the punctuation posts every Tuesday. Sign up for our newsletter to get our Daily Writing Links, and you won’t miss out.)

Today, I will be writing about inverted commas.

What are inverted commas?

Inverted commas are punctuation marks used to show where speech or a quotation begins and ends.

‘Inverted commas can be single – ‘x’ – or double – “x”. They are also known as quotation marks, speech marks, or quotes.’ –Oxford

In American English, inverted commas are called quotation marks. In British English, we use single marks more often than the double marks.

We use inverted commas:

1. To indicate the beginning and end of direct speech.

Direct speech means the exact words used by a speaker or writer.

In British English we use single marks. Example: ‘I’m tired,’ she said.

In American English, the rule is to use double quotation marks: Example: “I’m tired,” she said.

2. To indicate a word or phrase being discussed, or a word or phrase directly quoted from somewhere else.

In British English, we use single marks. We place punctuation outside the closing quotation mark.

Example: Her latest novel is called ‘Seven Days’.

In American English, you can use single or double quotation marks. You place the punctuation before the closing quotation mark or marks.

Example: Her latest novel is called “Seven Days.”

Note: Direct speech within direct speech

  • In British English we use single inverted commas for direct speech and double marks to enclose the quote. Example: Mr Smith said, ‘I think it was Sarah who said “It was a mistake” more than once.’
  • In American English you use single quotation marks when direct speech is quoted within another piece of direct speech. Example: Mr Smith said, “I think it was Sarah who said ‘It was a mistake’ more than once.”

What does the phrase ‘In Inverted Commas’ mean?

‘If you say in inverted commas after a word or phrase, you are indicating that it is inaccurate or unacceptable in some way, or that you are quoting someone else.’ (source)

Example: She sounded detached, as if she were speaking in inverted commas.

Suggested reading:

  1. How To Use Punctuation In Dialogue
  2. How To Use Quotation Marks With Punctuation (Infographic)
  3. All You Need To Know About Punctuating And Formatting Dialogue

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 by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. Punctuation For Beginners: All About Brackets
  2. Punctuation For Beginners: All About Hyphens & Em Dashes
  3. Punctuation For Beginners: All About Colons & Semicolons
  4. Punctuation For Beginners: All About Question & Exclamation Marks
  5. Punctuation For Beginners: All About Commas