Opinion: quotation marks

Last week we discussed preferred styles of parenthetical dash. You might be interested to know that the use of spaced en rules is currently winning (at 58% of votes). The poll is still open if you would like to join in!

Quote marksThis week I would like to ask you the following:

Do you prefer single or double quotation marks for ordinary use?

This might be a difficult question to choose one answer for, so please let me know your thoughts in the comments. It’s also worth recognising that we have to use single and double when quotations within quotations occur.

Single with double inside is usually the preferred British style:

‘Do you know what a “stickleback” is?’

While double with single inside is usually the preferred American style:

“Do you know what a ‘stickleback’ is?”

I believe Canadians and Australians tend to prefer doubles and South Africans tend to prefer singles – is that your experience?

I am British but I prefer double quotation marks, particularly because they help to avoid any confusion if the quoted matter contains an apostrophe. However, single quotation marks are typically regarded as easier to read on a screen. As usual, I’d love to know what you think!


  • New Hart’s Rules: The Oxford Style Guide
  • The Penguin Guide to Punctuation
  • Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage