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Inverted Commas/Quotation Marks

I read the article on Inverted Commas/Quotation Marks and to me the advice given seems the wrong way round! This is what the article says:

_to mark the beginning and end of direct speech (i.e., a speaker’s words written down exactly as they were spoken).

'That,' he said, 'is nonsense.'

In American English, the rule is to use double quotation marks:

"What time will he arrive?" she asked._

An Englishman I was taught way back in the 1950's exactly the opposite that is in English double quotation marks are correct and single were for quotations within quotations.
When did this change?


  • Hello again @Allsop.

    I've checked this with our editorial team, and too our knowledge, these conventions haven't changed in recent years at least.

    If this helps at all, New Hart's Rules states:

    British practice is normally to enclose quoted matter between single quotation marks, and to use double quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation:

    • ‘Have you any idea’, he said, ‘what “red mercury” is?’

    The order is often reversed in newspapers, and uniformly in US practice:

    • “Have you any idea,” he said, “what ‘red mercury’ is?”

    Perhaps you have encountered the double-single-double quotations marks in newspapers?

    I hope this helps!

    Best wishes,


  • Thank you for your reply. I am really quite surprised at this as if you pick up virtually any piece of English literature or English academic material you will find double quotation marks! In, for example, Conan-Doyle I read "Whatever have you been doing with yourself, Watson?" he asked in undisguised wonder, as we rattled through the crowded London streets. "You are as thin as a lath and as brown as a nut." _DOYLE, SIR ARTHUR CONAN. Complete Works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Illustrated) (Kindle Locations 255-257). Delphi Classics. Kindle Edition. _

    As far as I can see this practice is almost universal in books published in the UK.

  • AllsopAllsop
    edited July 2018

    Further to my last comment I have researched a little more and it appears this is another case of our two universities of Oxford and Cambridge differing! The University of Oxford Style Guide does indeed have it as you say but the University of Cambridge Editorial Style Guide has it as I was taught: "Double quotation marks are always used for direct quotes, unless there is a quote within a quote, in which case use single quote marks within double marks." As this is both how I was taught in the 1950's and it is also how my own Alma Mater's style guide (University of Nottingham) has it I shall continue to do so.

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