The little marks we know as single quotes (‘) and double quotes (“) get us in trouble all the time.

The double quote looks like the above illustration when it introduces spoken words or text imported from another writer or source. It’s the reverse when it closes the sme words.

When it comes to quote marks, the opposite of “straight” is “curly.” The quote marks shown above are known as “curly quotes” because they aren’t straight lines like they are in some type families.

When you’re writing dialog, each time a speaker in the conversation says something, those words are “enclosed” in double quotes. That means, a quote facing the text at the beginning and another at the end, turned to face the text from that perspective. We call the second quote a “close quote” or an “end quote” because it comes as the end of that segment of spoken speech. When we put the opening and ending quote marks on a piece of text, we call that “enclosing the text in quote marks.”

You start a new the paragraph when another speaker says something.

If the person who is speaking quotes someone else, those words are enclosed by single quotes.

If the person being quoted in single quotes uses speech from someone else, those words are closed by double quotes.

If you quote from a published source, the material you quote should be in quotes or indented to set it apart from other text. If the quoted text breaks into a new paragraph, there is no closing quote at the end of the previous paragraph.

One more thing…Quote marks go after punctuation marks that may end the words quoted.

Got it?

Here’s a sample that should help you understand the main quote mark rules regarding conversations.

“You don’t understand,” Marcia said, her lips trembling.

“You’re right. I don’t understand, either,” her husband Bill said, “and I’m understanding you less the more you go on.”

“My professor told me you were wrong about the start of the War of 1812, and he said, ‘Nobody should look at that piece of history like that.’ ”

The best way to learn how to write dialog and punctuate it properly is to read it. Cheap novels are an inexpensive way to find thousands of examples, and usually they are handled correctly. Literary articles are just as effective, although the more academic the piece is, the fewer quotations are likely. Newspapers are prepared so quickly that mistakes creep in on a regular basis. Use them to see how good you are at finding quote mark errors in everyday writing.