Should we use ‘single’ quotation marks or “double”?
When we write a story we are invariably going to use dialogue. We are also likely at some point to use a character’s train of thought.
Before a word is written the author must be clear on how the text is going to be presented throughout the entire story.
If there is difficulty in remembering whether to use ‘speech’ marks, just keep in mind that thoughts are not the spoken word – therefore there are no speech marks used. Simple.
How should I demonstrate this, he thought.
There are those that say we should use single quotation marks, and others suggest double. For many years it was thought that one method was right and the other was wrong, and that certain nationalities used single, while others used double. It is one of the many aspects of creative writing that has seen a lot of flexibility over the years.
It appears to be a growing trend to use single quotation marks. Check out work by Lee Child, Jeffrey Archer, or Ian Rankin. They all use single quotation marks for regular dialogue.
I admire all of these writers, but my own preference is to remain with double and I will go on to explain my reasoning.
Single – ‘The use of single speech marks is quicker when typing,’ he suggested.
Double – “I know,” I agreed, “but there are times when double helps. It tends to make me concentrate whenever I’m using dialogue.”
Now those two simple sentences demonstrate that either method works equally well, so I will now go on to complicate things a little.
We must also remember the use of a quote within a piece of dialogue. If the regular dialogue has been produced with double quotation marks, then any quote within the speech should be completed in single quotation marks. If the regular dialogue has been produced with single quotation marks, then any quote within the speech should be completed in double quotation marks.
“What did he say to you?” Helen asked.
“Well,” Barbara said and paused. “He said, ‘Check it out first,’ and that was it.”
‘What did he say to you?’ Helen asked.
‘Well,’ Barbara said and paused. ‘He said, “Check it out first,” and that was it.’
Either method works equally well as long as it is used consistently throughout the manuscript.
There are other occasions when single quotation marks are used in a manuscript, but I’ll write about them in my next post. However we decide to play it out in our writing there are guidelines we should observe.
- The writer must remain consistent in the use of either single or double throughout the manuscript.
- Whenever a quote is inserted within a passage of dialogue, the quote must be in the alternative type of quotation marks to the main speech.
As always, thank you for dropping by, especially if you decide to leave a comment. I’ll be back with more soon.