When and how to use inverted commas
Inverted commas have a number of purposes. They can be used to mark the beginning and end of direct speech, quote evidence from a text or to add a quotation.
To mark the beginning and end of direct speech
Here, the first pair of inverted commas should go before the first spoken word and the second pair should go after the punctuation which follows the last spoken word.
"Help me! The walls are closing in," cried Alfie.
To quote evidence from a text
Here, inverted commas are used to signal which word or words have been extracted from a text. Children might use this to justify their inferences about a character's thoughts, feelings or motivations.
The author describes the character's 'greedy eyes' which suggests that he is hungry for power.
To add a quotation into a text
Sometimes, a quotation is used to lead into a commmentary or it is embedded within a text. Remember here to attribute the author.
“The future depends on what we do in the present.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
It becomes slightly more complicated when dealing with a quote inside a quote. Here, the two types of inverted commas are used to offer the reader clarity. Children might use this in their writing to introduce sarcasm or irony.
If double inverted commas are used to signal the speech, then single inverted commas should signal the embedded quotation.
- "Oh, you think you look 'elegant' do you?" Hatty cackled.
If single inverted commas are used to signal the speech, then double inverted commas should signal the embedded quotation.
- 'Oh, you think you look "elegant" do you?' Hatty cackled.