Before I became a professional editor,
I didn't know when to use single quotation marks versus double quotation marks. Do you know?
If you do, you don't need this blog. But if you're a nonfiction or an academic writer who is like how I was, read on!
,My editing specialty is in APA style, so first I'll refer to its approach.
Obviously direct quotations from your participants or from other researchers must be inside double quotation marks.
APA also uses double quotation marks in the following cases:
APA style does not use double quotation marks for emphasis. Consider why you want to emphasize certain words and phrases. It is because you're introducing a key term? Then APA permits italics in that case. Is it because the word or phrase is slang, irony, and/or a coined or invented phrase? Then you can use double quotation marks.
When to use single quotation marks?
Use single quotation marks around quotes inside quotes. For example, one of the books you've read for your research is by an author named Jeff Flynn. Jeff has quoted another author by the name of Patricia Moore.
In Flynn's book, it looks like this:
You want to quote this section of Flynn's book, but it contains Moore's quote. Here's how you'd handle the quote inside:
Of course, you'd also have a citation for Flynn (year and page or paragraph number) and an introductory clause to avoid a stand-alone quote.
Chicago Style sums it up by saying to use double quotation marks for everything except for quotes inside quotes.
Grammar Girl says that this approach is the American way, and Britain's is different. If that's the case, other Commonwealth countries most likely use Britain's approach. Canada, however, is most often influenced by U.S. style with the exception of a few publishers.
Meet the Editor
I'm Coreen, and I am a copy editor, writer, instructor, digital marketer, and student of PR and Communications for organizations doing positive work in the world.