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bY Japanese Translation Company: Correct Use of Double and Single Quotation Marks


In addition to being a linguist, a professional translator is essentially a writer, and it is important not only to have a strong understanding of the source language, as the quality of the translator’s work is also judged on how well they communicate the meaning in the target language.

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Correct usage of grammar and punctuation is essential for achieving this. In this article, I would like to clarify the usage of double quotation marks (often called inverted commas) and single quotation marks.

As their name suggests, the primary use of double quotation marks is to indicate a quote. In this case everything being quoted is included within the quotation marks. What is inside the quotation marks describes what is actually said rather than being grammatically modified for the sentence being referred to. So, if you use double quotation marks, you would use the following sentence:

John said “I am sorry”

and not…

John said “he was sorry”.

There are other legitimate uses of double quotation marks. The first is sometimes referred to as scare quotes and indicates that the word is being used in an ironic way. For example, you might use the following sentence:

Oh no! Grandad is telling his “funny” jokes again.

This indicates that although Grandad may find his jokes funny, you do not.

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Double quotation marks may also be used to indicate the title of a magazine article or TV episode, as in the following example.

I really enjoy the “tanning salon” episode of Friends.

Single quotes are most often used to indicate something being quoted within a quote. So, in American English, you would place the entire sentence being quoted in double quotation marks and the phrase the quote is quoting in single quotation marks. For example:

The man said “That child really saved my life by screaming ‘Look out’ at the opportune moment”.

To complicate matters, British English uses the opposite approach. That is to say, the above sentence in British English would read:

The man said ‘That child really saved my life by screaming “Look out” at the opportune moment’

In conclusion, when using single quotation marks and double quotation marks, the above rules should be followed to ensure correct usage. What is more, it is necessary to be aware whether you are supposed to be using British English or American English to ensure correct usage.



About the Author
Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of the Japanese Translation Company Tokyo, Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news by Japanese Translation Services

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