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Double verses single speech marks?

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Old 08-25-2014, 02:03 AM
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Default Double verses single speech marks?

I suppose this may be a stupid question, but I have never really known the difference between single and double quotation marks, especially for speech? Is there actually any specific difference? I personally always use single for speech, and double in essays or otherwise making direct quotations of a work or person. Is there etiquette as to where each one is used? I notice that most novels tend to be written using single marks, but that some classic works use double.

Is it up to publisher, author, or simply down to an individual book?

Any comments appreciated.

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Old 08-25-2014, 05:41 AM
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It's a mixture of both, to be honest. First there's a wider cultural difference between UK and US (UK double, single internaly v UK single, double internally). But then you have publisher differences where some UK publishers prefer the American version, some the British.

Every publisher will have their own house style. Eg, I'm UK too, but I edit for an American publisher, so I edit to the double speech marks for them. I also write for an American publisher who likes an English feel, but they still prefer the double speech mark usage.

I've got to admit, I barely use the single system becuase of that. Eg, I don't write:

[']How are you?['] (single)

[']Huh? ["]How are you?["]['] He scowled. [']What the hell do you mean by that?['] ('How are you' in the second example has single, then double style.)

I'll edit and write:

["]How are you?["] (double)

["]Huh? [']How are you?[']["] He scowled. "What the hell do you mean by that?"

If ever you're in doubt, you can ask the publisher you're targetting, or just look at some novels they've published; that will tell you which style they prefer.

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Old 08-25-2014, 03:25 PM
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As a Brit, Floyd, I have always used single quotation marks as a rule. And double quotes when someone is quoting another character within those single ones.

I appreciate that Americans, in general, do the opposite. But really, whichever you use, what matters most is that you remain consistent. Don't start a novel with double quotes and later mindlessly switch to single as that will be jarring for your reader who has already established in their mind that you are using double.

Hope that helps.

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