Quotation marks

Quotation marks (inverted commas) are used for a variety of reasons. They are used to show the exact words someone has spoken or written (a direct quote), or to identify specialist terms. They may also be used to draw attention to words or phrases. Quotation marks can be placed around a word or phrase to signal that a term is being used in a nonstandard, ironic, or in another special sense. They may be used to imply that a particular expression is not necessarily how the author would have worded a concept.

Students can:

  • Identify the variety of uses of quotation marks to convey meaning.

Activity 1 – guided

Ask students:

  • What are quotation marks?
  • When/how are they used?

As students provide their answers, display the matching prepared fact cards on the whiteboard.


1. Direct speech or dialogue – to separate the words someone in a sentence actually says from the rest of the sentence.

  • ‘I’m going out now. Is that OK?’ he asked.
  • ‘I’ll be back home soon,’ Jim called out to his mum.
  • Mum said quietly, ‘Please sit down.’

2. Titles of books/movies

  • ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ is an excellent children’s picture book
  • 'Frozen' is a 2013 American 3D computer animated musical.

3. Citing from another source- from a book or internet site

  • In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of The English Language, David Crystal argues that punctuation ‘plays a critical role in the modern writing system’.

4. Word or phrase that we see as jargon/technical language

  • The police were called to a ‘disturbance’ (big fight)
  • The soccer player performed a perfect ‘bicycle kick’ (overhead kick)

5. Word or phrase that we want to make ‘special’ or figurative

  • As gas atoms absorb energy from collisions, the atmospheric gases become ‘excited’ (high energy level)

Activity 2 – quotation mark hunt

Students keep an observation log for a week, recording the use and function of quotation marks in any text used in their class. Find as many texts to support different uses of quotation marks as they can.

Students share their findings with the rest of the class at the end of the week.

Activity 3

Using a computer generated piece of text students manipulate the text to incorporate at least three different uses of quotation marks. Instruct them to highlight each a different colour.

Alternatively students compose their own short text incorporating at least three different uses of quotation marks.


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