Proper use of quotation marks
Thread poster: zabrowa
Local time: 01:24
Feb 12, 2009

So, I'm working on a paper which requires me to put specific parts of the text between apostrophe marks (namely, linguistic glosses, though this is irrelevant).

One line of text that must go between apostrophes contains a quote and hence has quotation marks... How do I resolve this, stylistically?

Here it is below:

‘“Why did you eat that donkey sausage? It is poison!” She said’

The real trouble is the set of three marks together on the leftmost side of the string above.
How can I resolve this esthetically? Or should I just ignore it?


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:24
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
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A suggestion Feb 12, 2009
Single or double quotation marks denote either speech or a quotation. Neither style – single or double – is an absolute rule, though double quotation marks are preferred in the United States, and both single and double quotation marks are used in the United Kingdom. A publisher’s or even an author’s style may take precedence over national general preferences.

The important rule is that the style of opening and closing quotation marks must be matched:

‘Good morning, Dave,’ greeted HAL.
“Good morning, Dave,” greeted HAL.
For speech within speech, the other is used as inner quotation marks:

‘HAL said, “Good morning, Dave,” ’ recalled Frank.
“HAL said, ‘Good morning, Dave,’ ” recalled Frank.
Omitting quotation marks is generally not recommended.

Sometimes, quotations are nested in more levels than inner and outer quotation. Nesting levels up to five can be found in the Bible.[2] In these cases, questions arise about the form (and names) of the quotation marks to be used. The most common way is to simply alternate between the two forms[3], thus:

“…‘…“…‘ … … ’…”…’…”
If such a passage is further quoted in another publication, then all of their forms have to be shifted over by one level.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:24
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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Just making sure! Feb 12, 2009

Do you mean quotation marks in English?

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Local time: 01:24
English Feb 12, 2009

Yes, this text is in English.

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-02-12 17:04 GMT]

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Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:24
German to English
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typographic methods Feb 13, 2009

If you have a lot of quotations of relatively short phrases in your text, you can use typographic methods to set off quoted text (such as setting all quotes in italic or in a distinctly different font). You should of course check with your client first and explain the usage somewhere in the document for the benefit of the reader, but this is not uncommon practice.
Many style rules originate from the days of typewriters and do reflect the typographic possibilities now available to everyone with a computer and a word processing program.

[Edited at 2009-02-13 14:48 GMT]

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Maria-Jose Pastor
Local time: 19:24
English to Spanish
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Double, then single Feb 13, 2009

When I was in school, here in the US, we were taught that when quopting a quote, the first (outer) quotation marks are to be double ", then the second are single ' example:

" ... Abraham Lincoln began his speech, 'Four score and ...' "

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Kathryn Litherland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:24
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
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in print Feb 13, 2009

If I understand correctly, you're less concerned about which type to use, and more concerned about how it will look.

If the text will be typeset for a print publication, in the final product the demarcation between the outer apostrophe and the inner double quotation marks will be more distinct, because there is more space between the two separate pieces of punctuation than there is between the two inverted commas that comprise the double quotation mark. It won't look like three identical inverted commas in a row.

Depending on the level of production involved, you might pass a note along to wind up in the hands of the production editor to keep an eye on the "kerning" for this particular pair of symbols, though, and suggest that a little extra space may be warranted. The typesetter can adjust the amount of space between any specific pair of letters or symbols.

If it's not being professionally typeset but it is going to be distributed and you're still concerned that it looks too crashy, I don't think you should insert a full space. Here's a trick for emulating a typesetter's thin or hair space (typesetting terms for, respectively, a quite small and extremely small horizontal space) in software such as Word (which may not really be your job, but it's always good to be the hero!)

First, insert a regular space between the two punctuation symbols. Then select the space, go to the format>font menu and set the font size *for just the space* to a font size of 1 or 2. If your base font is 12 pts, this will give you a space that is 1/6 or 1/12 of a regular space, which is just enough to create a slight visual gap that more clearly distinguishes the two punctuation marks.

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Proper use of quotation marks

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