Correct Usage of Quotation Marks in Academic Writing

Incorrect use of quotation marks could confuse authors whose primary language is not English. Quotation marks can be used for indicating that the text was copied word-for-word from another source, to draw attention or use a technical term, or to indicate that the text is word-for-word taken from another source. There are two types: “Run-in” or “Separated By Block Text”. There are two types of punctuation: “run-in” and “separated by block text.” These styles vary depending on where they’re located, what country they’re from, the subject matter, and what type of quotations. These examples will demonstrate how to use quotation marks within academic writing.


What typeface is used to create quotation marks? This is crucial in scientific writing because it allows scientists to distinguish between quotations and prime marks. Prime marks are used frequently in genetics and other physical science disciplines. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) states that quotation marks are sometimes called “curly” and “smart” and are meant to match the typeface of the published text. Smart quotes should not confuse with straight quotes (“), which is the default form of the computer. Single straight quotes are also often used as prime marks. They can be used in measurements, such as feet or arcminutes, and mathematics. However, this is an incorrect usage. The prime symbol (‘) should be used instead. You can easily change the forms in your computer’s Word-processing program.

Quotation Marks in Text

No matter which style guide you follow or which side you’re on, there are common rules regarding the use of quotation marks in text. If you insert a direct quote in your writing, the reader must know that these words are not yours. Quotation marks are used to distinguish the characters’ words from the words of the author in stories that include conversations between them.

Quotation marks can also draw attention to new words and phrases. This is especially useful in science writing, such as the following sentence: Ichthyology, one of the many branches of Zoology, focuses on the fish study. The new term is in double quotations and the comma within the quotation marks in the American English style.

Quotation Marks in Referencing Lists

Different style guides use different procedures for using quotation marks within reference lists. The Modern Language Association (MLA) style guide is used for liberal arts and humanities papers. Social and behavioural science authors usually follow the American Psychological Association’s style guide. Writers in the biological and engineering sciences refer to the Council of Science Editors’ (CSE) handbook. MLA and CMOS, for example, use quotation marks to surround titles of articles in books. APA, however, does not. Quote, marks are not used around book titles but in periodicals (including newspapers). These examples show the differences.

Single, Double, or Punctuation

There are two types of quotation marks: single and double. Double quotation marks in American English are used first, while single quotations marks can be used second to cite a reference. British English is the exact opposite. These are just a few examples.

American English has periods and commas placed within quotation marks, while other punctuations are outside. This seems logical. It is not logical. However, it comes from typesetting by hand. Back then, small punctuation was not allowed to hang off the end of blocks of text. All punctuation in British English must be placed outside of quotation marks unless included in the quoted text. CSE recommends that punctuation be used in scientific writing according to the British English. However, it is always important to verify your author guidelines.

Block Text and Epigraphs

The length of the passage will determine the format of quotations. MLA protocol says to format the passage in block text if it exceeds four lines. APA protocol recommends blocking text if the passage is longer than 40 words. You should also check other style guides for additional rules.

An epigraph is an inscription that is often found on tombstones or buildings. They can be directly quoted, but quotation marks are not allowed. Instead, special fonts and formats are used to draw attention to them.

Writing tips

Quotations marks should not be overused. Regardless of the style guide, it is important to use them correctly and sparingly. They are not necessary to be used around words of emphasis. You should always ensure you’re using the right style for your discipline.


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