When do you use double quotation marks?

This page reflects guidance from the sixth edition of the Publication Manual.

For the most current guidelines, see the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.) and our Style and Grammar Guidelines page for the seventh edition.

Use double quotation marks

Observe the following guidelines for uses of double quotation marks other than in material quoted directly from a source.

to introduce a word or phrase used as an ironic comment, as slang, or as an invented or coined expression. Use quotation marks the first time the word or phrase is used; thereafter, do not use quotation marks.

Examples:

  • considered "normal" behavior
  • the "good-outcome" variable…the good-outcome variable [no quotation marks after the initial usage]

but

  • Subjects in the small group [Small is italicized to prevent misreading—here it means a group designation, not the size of the group]

to set off the title of an article or chapter in a periodical or book when the title is mentioned in text.

Example:

  • Riger's (1992) article, "Epistemological Debates, Feminist Voices: Science, Social Values, and the Study of Women"

to reproduce material from a test item or verbatim instructions to participants.

Example:

  • The first fill-in item was "could be expected to __________."

(adapted from the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual, © 2010)

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