Difference Wiki

Double Quotes vs. Single Quotes: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on March 3, 2024
Double quotes enclose direct speech or quotations, while single quotes are used for quotes within quotes or for emphasis in informal writing.

Key Differences

Double quotes are typically used in American English to denote direct speech, quotations, or phrases that require emphasis. They signal the reader that the enclosed text is someone else's words or a direct citation from another source. Single quotes, on the other hand, are often employed within double quotes to indicate a quote within a quote, highlighting a special consideration or usage primarily in British English.
In programming and scripting languages, double quotes and single quotes have distinct functions. Double quotes allow for variable interpolation and the interpretation of escape sequences, making the enclosed string more flexible. Single quotes are used to represent a string literally, without interpretation or substitution, preserving the enclosed text exactly as is.
The usage of double quotes can also extend to titles of short works, such as articles, poems, and songs, depending on the style guide followed. Single quotes are sometimes used for the same purpose in British English, illustrating a divergence in practice based on regional preferences. This showcases the variability in their application across different contexts and linguistic traditions.
When it comes to emphasis and denoting speech or thought in text, double quotes are the standard in American English, providing a clear demarcation for the reader. Single quotes, while used similarly in British English, often play a secondary role in American English, serving as a tool for highlighting quotations within quotations or for specific stylistic choices in writing.
Understanding the difference between double quotes and single quotes is crucial for accurate and effective communication. Whether in academic writing, programming, or everyday use, recognizing the appropriate contexts for each type of quotation mark enhances clarity and ensures the intended meaning is conveyed properly.

Comparison Chart

Usage in American English

Used for primary quotations and direct speech.
Used for quotations within quotations.

Usage in British English

Often used interchangeably with single quotes, but less commonly for primary quotations.
Preferred for primary quotations, with double quotes for quotations within.


Enclose strings where interpolation or special characters are needed.
Enclose strings that are interpreted literally.


Can indicate irony, sarcasm, or special usage.
Similarly used for emphasis, particularly in British English.


Enclose titles of short works like articles and songs, depending on the style guide.
Less commonly used for titles, except in certain British contexts.

Double Quotes and Single Quotes Definitions

Double Quotes

Denotes direct speech.
He said, 'Hello.'

Single Quotes

Used for emphasis in informal writing.
'Real' cheese tastes better.

Double Quotes

Encloses a quotation.
The article titled 'The Future of AI' is fascinating.

Single Quotes

Denotes titles in British English.
'To Be or Not to Be' is a famous soliloquy.

Double Quotes

Emphasizes sarcasm or irony.
She 'loved' getting caught in the rain.

Single Quotes

Indicates special terminology or slang.
She's got 'swagger.'

Double Quotes

Indicates special usage.
The word 'literally' is often misused.

Single Quotes

Emphasizes irony or sarcasm in British English.
He's a 'genius' at forgetting.

Double Quotes

Used for titles of short works.
I read 'The Tell-Tale Heart' in one sitting.

Double Quotes

Plural of double-quote

Double Quotes

Infl of double-quote


Can I use double quotes for titles?

Yes, for titles of short works like articles and songs, depending on the style guide.

Do double quotes and single quotes have different uses in programming?

Yes, double quotes allow for interpolation, while single quotes denote literal strings.

Can I use single quotes for emphasis?

Yes, especially in informal writing or within a quotation in American English.

When should I use double quotes?

Use double quotes for direct quotations and speech in American English.

Are single quotes used differently in British English?

Yes, they're often used for primary quotations, with double quotes for quotations within.

Are there exceptions to these rules?

Yes, usage can vary based on specific style guides or regional preferences.

Do punctuation marks go inside or outside quotation marks?

In American English, punctuation usually goes inside the quotation marks.

Is it acceptable to use single quotes for direct speech?

In British English, yes, but it's less common in American English.

Can single quotes be used for sarcasm or irony?

Yes, particularly in British English or within double-quoted speech in American English.

Are single quotes ever used for emphasis in American English?

Rarely for emphasis; they're more commonly used for quotes within quotes.

Should I avoid using double quotes for emphasis?

Yes, it's generally better to use italics or underlining for emphasis in formal writing.

How do I know which quotation marks to use in academic writing?

Follow the guidelines of the specific style guide (APA, MLA, Chicago) you're using.

Can double quotes denote sarcasm or irony?

Yes, especially when the context or tone suggests a non-literal interpretation.

What's the difference in quoting dialogue with double and single quotes?

Double quotes are standard for dialogue in American English, with single quotes for dialogue within dialogue.

Can the use of quotation marks affect the clarity of writing?

Yes, correct usage helps to clearly indicate speech, quotations, and special meanings.

How do I quote a quotation within text?

Use single quotes for the inner quotation if you're using double quotes for the main text.

Can I use double quotes in programming for variables?

Yes, to allow for variable interpolation and special character recognition.

How should I use quotation marks in British English academic writing?

Prefer single quotes for primary quotations and double quotes for quotations within.

How do quotation marks interact with other punctuation in British English?

Punctuation related to the quotation often goes outside the quotation marks.

Can single quotes be used for article titles?

Yes, in certain contexts, especially within another quotation or in British English.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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