This pages addresses how to use quotation marks in cases other than with direct quotations. Additional cases and examples are provided in the Publication Manual; users’ most common questions are addressed here.

Quotation marks are covered in Section 6.7 of the APA Publication Manual, Seventh Edition

When to Use Quotation Marks

In APA Style papers, use double quotation marks in the following cases:

Case

Example

To refer to a letter, 

word, 

phrase, 

or sentence as a linguistic example or as itself

the letter “j”

the singular “they”

answered “yes” to the question

Students wrote “I promise to uphold the honor code” at the top of the test page.

To present stimuli in the text (long lists of stimuli may be better presented in a table, where quotation marks are not needed)

The stimulus words were “groceries,” “cleaning,” “overtime,” and “office.”

To reproduce material from a test item or verbatim instructions to participants (if instructions are long, present them in an appendix or set them off from text in block quote format 

The first item was “How often do you feel happy with your body?” The second item was “How often do you exercise?”

First use of a word or phrase used as an ironic comment, as slang, or as an invented or coined expression

considered “normal” behavior

Around the title of a periodical article or book chapter when the title is used in the text (do not use quotation marks in the reference list entry)

Sherman’s (2019) article “The Art of Giving Feedback” addressed how nurses can give effective feedback. 

When Not to Use Quotation Marks

Do not use double quotation marks in the following cases in APA Style papers:


Case

Example

To highlight a key term or phrase (e.g., around a term for which you are going to provide a definition); instead, use italics

Mindfulness is defined as “the act of noticing new things, a process that promotes flexible responding to the demands of the environment” (Pagnini et al., 2016, p. 91).

To identify the anchors of a scale; 

instead, use italics

ranged from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent)

a Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree)

To refer to a numeral as itself because the meaning is sufficiently clear without quotation marks

The numeral 2 was displayed onscreen.

To hedge or downplay meaning (do not use any punctuation with these expressions)

Correct: The teacher rewarded the class with tokens.
Incorrect: The teacher “rewarded” the class with tokens.