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ESL forum > Ask for help > Help with single inverted commas.     

Help with single inverted commas.

United Kingdom

Help with single inverted commas.
Jake saw The Killers sing Human live.
Where do the single inverted commas go?  Should it be: Jake saw The Killers sing Human live or, Jake saw The Killers sing Human live?
Our literacy guru and I disagree on this. What do you think?  

22 Feb 2015      



I was told - as a kid - that any piece of art should be underlined - & not put into inverted commas...

 Jake saw The Killers sing Human live.
Same with artists... ( can be in italics, though...)
Not sure of that, just trying to help! ;-)))

22 Feb 2015     

United Kingdom

Hi Val, thanks for this. I haven t heard of underlining but I do know that using italics can be an alternative to inverted commas.
Anyone else?  
Edit: And in fact, this guru is trying to tell us that you must use double commas for direct speech, and single ones for titles, names etc.... Ive never heard of any such rule... 

22 Feb 2015     


This is what the Oxford Dictionary says. >>> very wise, ideed!

22 Feb 2015     

United States

American rules are a bit different, but I ll expound anyway. In the USA, we use double quotation marks for titles of short works, such as magazine articles, individual songs, or short stories. We use italics or underlines for the titles of longer works, such as plays, novels, other books, albums, and symphonies. We also use double quotation marks for quotes, and single quotation marks for quotes within quotes. We don t usually underline or italicize the names of writers or artists, though.

22 Feb 2015     

United States

I am American, but the second option looks clearer to me because the first one has too many punctuation marks. I may be wrong, but to me the important thing is to be as clear as possible, and punctuation is supposed to facilitate clarity.
Jake saw The Killers sing Human live is the clearest  I like capitalizing the name of the band and feel that the capitalization alone makes it clear that it is set apart or highlighted. It is fine to highlight the title of the song Human  with single inverted commas.
In the US we have style manuals, APA and MLA come to mind. In formal writing, we consult them, and they are not always intuitive, but have their own esoteric traditions. Maybe your college is thinking of an accepted manual of style that is used in the UK?

This blog has examples of overusing quotation marks. http://www.unnecessaryquotes.com/

22 Feb 2015     

alien boy

From the Oxford University StyleGuide:

Quotation marks
Use single quotation marks for direct speech or a quote, and double quotation marks for direct speech or a quote within that.
I have never been to Norway, he said, but I have heard it described as the Wales of the North.

Use no quotation marks if the quote is displayed (ie not in line with the rest ofthe text).
as I noted then,
Those of us who toil in the Groves of Academe know full well that our research helps inform
our teaching

Use single quotation marks and roman (not italic) type for titles that are not whole publications: eg short poems, short stories, songs, chapters in books, articles in periodicals etc. See also Highlighting/emphasising text.
I, Robot contains nine short stories, of which Little Lost Robot is my favourite.
Queens Bohemian Rhapsody, from the album Night at the Opera, reached number one in both 1975 and 1991.

6. Quotation marks (except for actual quotations) will be used sparingly, as with overuse they lose their emphasis. They will be used

- to set off a quotation run into the text, or around words or phrases taken from another source

- around words used in an ironic sense, if that sense might elude the reader: Five villages were subjected to "pacification."

- around words used as words and terms used as terms on their first occurrence in the manuscript (unless italics are being used for this purpose): "Tribe" is used here to describe . . .

- around titles of short works, such as short stories, short poems, chapters, etc.

Quotation marks will not be used

- around a term or expression following the words "so-called"

- around a quotation that will be set off in block form from the text (quotations longer than about 60 words will be set off)

23 Feb 2015     

United States

I mostly agree with Moody and RedCamaro:
Jake saw The Killers sing "Human" live.

23 Feb 2015     

United Kingdom

Thanks for the comments and the links, guys. I ve got this straight now. 

23 Feb 2015