Industry Standard Formatting

Are you a struggling writer? Have you sent off dozens of manuscripts to publishing houses and heard nothing back? Well, chances are there is a very simple mistake you are making, and this can be the difference between your work getting published or thrown in the bin.

I’m going to let you in on a little industry secret.

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How to use Quotation Marks

Quotation Marks: Double or Single?

Quotation marks can be surprisingly tricky for some writers. You may have noticed certain books using either single (‘ ’) or double (“ ”) quotation marks, and don’t know which one to use for your own work. So which one is the right one?

Answer: Both.

Longer answer: Quotation marks are one of the many differences between American Standard and English Standard spelling and grammar.

American Standard tends to stick with double quotation marks, whereas English Standard uses single. It isn’t uncommon for books published with English Standard spelling to also use double quotation marks, but it is highly unlikely an American publishing house will use single quotation marks.

So which one should you use? If you’re looking to break into the American market, use double.

If you’re writing speculative fiction (Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror) then this is also a time to use double; if you’re writing literary fiction then use single. From what I have gathered, this seems to be an unspoken preference among publishing houses.

How do they work?

Hopefully you all know this by now. Quotation marks are used to enclose words intended as dialogue. Pretty obvious, I know. But here is where things get more technical and less obvious.

These examples may also be included in How to use Commas and How to Write Dialogue.

Say you want to have a character quoting someone else. This is where you get to use both.

“Chloe told me that ‘if you’re going to quote me, then at least have the decency to use a different style of quotation mark.'”

 

This second example is a very common mistake often seen with amateur writers.

“I thought you liked peaches.” said Chloe.

What is wrong with this sentence? Look closely.

“I thought you liked peaches,” said Chloe.

The dialogue tag (or, the verb and pronoun indicating who is delivering the dialogue) is part of the sentence. This means the full-stop must come at the end.

If you want to include a verb with your dialogue, be it a simple expression or an action, then use a full-stop:

Jimmy pulled a disgusted face. “No, they’re fuzzy and gross.”

“No, they’re fuzzy and gross.” Jimmy pushed the peaches away, disgusted.

In Layman’s terms — when you’re writing “said” then end your dialogue with a comma. If you’re using a verb (action, expression) then end your dialogue with a full-stop.