Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Quotation marks #3

with 8 comments

Early 20th century Valentine's Day card, showi...
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Not sure how to use quotation marks? Go here first.

How are quotes within quotes punctuated?

Here are a couple of examples:

She said: “When he said to me, ‘I love you’, I nearly died laughing.”


“When he said to me, ‘I love you’, I nearly died laughing,” she said.

If you prefer using single quote marks, you will need to use double quote marks for speech inside speech marks, for example:

‘When he said to me, “I love you”, I nearly died laughing,’ she said.

In all cases, note carefully where the commas and full stops are placed.

The American way…

Please note: here’s how Americans would punctuate these examples:

She said: “When he said to me, ‘I love you,’ I nearly died laughing.”

“When he said to me, ‘I love you,’ I nearly died laughing,” she said.

(You will see that the comma comes directly after ‘you’ and before the quotation mark in US punctuation.)

Quotation marks #1

Quotation marks #2

Using speech marks with longer quotes

What’s the point? A guide to punctuation


8 Responses

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  1. In honor of St Valentine’s Day, I offer this syrupy quote from someone’s Facebook signature: “No yesterdays are ever wasted for those who give themselves to today.”

    The spelling, punctuation, and syntax far exceed the quality of the sentiment.

    Michael Farrell

    14/02/2010 at 8:34 pm

    • Yes, why do people have those sayings permanently associated with their names? And, more interestingly, do they have a specific name, other than ‘those sayings’?

      “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”


      15/02/2010 at 8:42 am

  2. Those sayings have the pretense of depth and wisdom — something we should apply to make our lives better or richer — but, when analyzed, say nothing useful or even rational.

    No comment on “St Valentine’s”? Because it looks right to you?

    Michael Farrell

    15/02/2010 at 4:01 pm

    • ‘St’ without the full stop after it looks OK to me and it’s listed as an abbreviation for ‘saint’ in the Oxford Dictionary of English but with the proviso, ‘usually st.’ (with the full stop). It’s an interesting topic; for example, when I use ‘St’ as an abbreviation for ‘Street’, e.g. ‘Brown St.’, I would always use the full stop. But when it comes to ‘st’ meaning ‘stones’ (as in weight) I wouldn’t, and it’s specified without in the ODE.


      15/02/2010 at 4:39 pm

      • I’d say formal AmE usually (I first wrote “always”) requires a full stop in any such shortened form. The only exceptions I can think of are postal abbreviations like “Av” for Avenue (I’d use “Ave.”) and defined state abbreviations for postal-address use only (“CA” for California, etc.).

        “Bourbon Street” would be shortened to “Bourbon St.” because it’s a proper noun; “stone” is not.

        It’s not precisely parallel to “Dr.,” “Ms.,” and so on, but many here would use “ml” for milliliter, “mph” for miles per hour, “am” for A.M., etc.

        Michael Farrell

        15/02/2010 at 5:55 pm

  3. Yes: they’re called “bromides.” 🙂

    Michael Farrell

    15/02/2010 at 4:03 pm

    • Clever clogs. One definition of ‘bromide’ in my dictionary is indeed: trite statement that is intended to sooth or placate

      I did not know that.


      15/02/2010 at 4:13 pm

  4. I hope it’s neither too early nor too late for some more Valentine’s Day wisdom, also brought to you by a FB user: “My hope for the ‘negative’ folks, is they realize how awesome they really are and that the most important relationship is the one they have with themselves. All other relationships are a reflection of the quality of that relationship.”

    Spot the deliberate errors.

    Michael Farrell

    16/02/2010 at 4:21 pm

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