Grammar Tip – Quotation Marks: ‘Single’ or “Double”?

Roger’s question: “When do you use double quotation marks as opposed to single ones?”

BizWritingTip response: Quotation marks have three main functions:
1) to indicate exact words
2) to set off words for special effect
3) to show parts of a complete published work

Normally, you would use double quotation marks in all three cases. However, there are specific instances in North America when you use single quotes.

1. Use single quotation marks in headlines in newspapers, articles, brochures, etc., when quotation marks are required. This helps with spacing issues.
2. Use single quotation marks for a quote within a quote.

He said, “My favourite poem is ‘The Raven.’ ”
Marie asked, “Can you please tell me the difference between ‘dislike’ and ‘not like.’ ”

Note: When a word or term is used to imply the word itself – and is not being used in its regular sense — you should put it in italics or surround it with double quotation marks.

Some people say between you and I when between you and me is correct.
Some people say “between you and I” when “between you and me” is correct.

Many people overuse that in their writing.
Many people overuse “that” in their writing.

Exception: It’s common in certain disciplines such as philosophy, theology, and linguistics to use single quotation marks instead of double quotation marks when highlighting words with special meaning. In standard business writing, stick with the double.