Is it single or double quotation marks?

Posted on 2 September 2015 by Lucy Gregory

Single or double – the choice is yours

You’ll be pleased to hear that whether you use single or double quotation marks is up to you – or your organisation’s house style.

New Hart’s Rules is the style guide of choice for most professional editors and proofreaders. It says that modern British practice is to use single quotation marks.

The Economist, the Guardian and the Telegraph style guides, however, prefer double quotation marks.

Whichever ones you choose, you must be consistent. That means using the same quotation marks for every type of use.

For example, Attica house style prefers single quotation marks. That means we use them to:

Enclose quoted material

‘Have you read that amazing Attica blog?’ Paul asked.

Denote a technical or unfamiliar word or phrase

Our team away-days are known as ‘escapes’.

Define terms (for example, in a legal document)

Company XYZ Limited (the ‘Borrower’) borrowed £1 million from Bickleys Bank plc (the ‘Lender’).

Undermine or disagree with the point being made

The government said recent tax rises would ‘benefit’ working people.

Separate a word from the rest of the text

It’s fine to use the words ‘anticipate’ and ‘expect’ synonymously.

The exception

The exception is using quotation marks inside an existing quotation. You must use the other type of mark, whichever one that is. For example, Attica uses single quotation marks normally, so we use double quotation marks for a quote within a quote.
‘Does anyone know what a “dangling participle” is?’ asked Lucy.

The Economist, however, would do it the other way round: “Does anyone know what a ‘dangling participle’ is?” asked Lucy.