Writing Tip: Formatting Quotes

Whenever you include a quote in your copy, it’s important to show the source. If the quote stands alone (in its own paragraph, as a social post, etc.), it should be formatted like this:

“For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’” —1 Corinthians 1:19

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that we were made for another world.” —C.S. Lewis, author

Here are some key points:

  • Always use curly quotation marks in any context (here’s how).
  • Keep double quotation marks around the whole quote.
  • If there’s a quote within a quote, surround it with single quotation marks.
  • For the attribution, end with a space, em dash, and source (no space between the em dash and the source). Alternatively, you could begin a new line with the em dash if it makes more sense in context.
  • If there’s a verse range, use an en dash (“Proverbs 3:3–6”).
  • If there’s a job title or department associated with the source’s name, use these capitalization guidelines.

Going into more depth with formatting, let’s look at how to use punctuation with quotes.

Check out this (overly complicated) example from The Chicago Manual of Style:

“Don’t be absurd!” said Henry. “To say that ‘I mean what I say’ is the same as ‘I say what I mean’ is to be as confused as Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. You remember what the Hatter said to her: ‘Not the same thing a bit! Why you might just as well say that “I see what I eat” is the same thing as “I eat what I see”!’”

Hopefully none of us ever need to write something so complex, but it shows us some great examples.

Let’s break this down into some main points:

  • Keep double quotation marks around the whole quote.
  • If there’s a quote within a quote, surround it with single quotation marks.
  • If there’s another quote within that quote, return to double quotation marks, continuing to alternate the two with each level. (Please note that this is very rare and should be avoided or reworked when possible.)
  • Periods and commas generally stay inside closing quotation marks:

“I wish I could study the Bible in depth,” she said.

He said, “You should try Logos Bible Software.”

  • Colons and semicolons are placed outside closing quotation marks:

She wanted to sing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”; he wanted to sing “Amazing Grace.”

  • Question marks and exclamation points stay inside the quotation marks when part of the quoted text. Otherwise, they fall right outside the closing quotation marks.

Did she say “I love Logos Bible Software”?

“I love Logos Bible Software!” she said.

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