Difference Wiki

Inverted Commas vs. Quotation Marks: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 21, 2023
Inverted commas and quotation marks are the same punctuation marks used to denote speech or quotations, differing only in regional naming conventions.

Key Differences

Inverted commas, known as quotation marks in American English, are punctuation marks used to indicate direct speech, quotations, or phrases that require emphasis. Regardless of the term used, their function in a sentence is identical, serving to highlight specific text.
The term 'inverted commas' is commonly used in British English, whereas 'quotation marks' is the preferred term in American English. Both are typographically the same, consisting of either a pair of single (‘...’) or double (“...”) marks.
Inverted commas are often used to indicate irony or sarcasm when enclosing a word or phrase, a usage shared by quotation marks in American English. Their role in providing context or indicating an unusual use of a word is universal across English dialects.
While inverted commas are primarily associated with direct speech in British English, quotation marks in American English are also used for this purpose, highlighting the spoken word in text. This shows the functional similarity between the two terms.
In terms of typographic style, inverted commas and quotation marks can differ slightly between regions, with British English often using single marks as the primary form and American English favoring double marks. However, these preferences do not alter their basic function.

Comparison Chart

Regional Usage

Commonly used in British English
Commonly used in American English

Primary Form

Often single marks (‘...’)
Often double marks (“...”)

Usage in Direct Speech

Used to enclose spoken words
Used to enclose spoken words

Indicating Irony/Sarcasm

Used to indicate irony or sarcasm
Used to indicate irony or sarcasm

Highlighting Text

Used to emphasize a word or phrase
Used to emphasize a word or phrase

Inverted Commas and Quotation Marks Definitions

Inverted Commas

Inverted commas are punctuation marks indicating speech or quotations.
She said, ‘I’ll be there soon.’

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks denote titles of poems or short stories.
My favorite short story is “The Lottery.”

Inverted Commas

Inverted commas can indicate sarcasm or irony.
He’s a real ‘genius’ when it comes to cooking.

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks highlight a phrase or specific term.
The term “quantum mechanics” can be intimidating.

Inverted Commas

Inverted commas are used to highlight a specific word or phrase.
The word ‘free’ doesn’t always mean without cost.

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are used to indicate someone’s spoken words.
“I can’t believe it,” she exclaimed.

Inverted Commas

Inverted commas enclose direct quotes or dialogues.
The teacher asked, ‘Have you done your homework?’

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks can signify irony or an unusual usage.
He is “working hard” on his video game skills.

Inverted Commas

Inverted commas denote titles of short works or articles.
I just read the article ‘The Future of AI.’

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks enclose phrases taken from other texts.
The phrase “to be or not to be” is famous.


Are inverted commas and quotation marks the same?

Yes, they are the same punctuation marks, used interchangeably.

When should I use inverted commas?

Use inverted commas for direct speech, titles of short works, or emphasis.

Can inverted commas be used for irony?

Yes, they can indicate irony or sarcasm.

Are double quotation marks common in American English?

Yes, double quotation marks are more common in American English.

Should I use inverted commas for direct quotations?

Yes, use them to enclose exact words spoken or written.

Do British English writers prefer single inverted commas?

Generally, yes, single inverted commas are more common in British English.

Can I use quotation marks for emphasizing a word?

Yes, they can emphasize a word or phrase.

Do quotation marks go outside punctuation?

In American English, they usually go outside; in British English, inside.

Is it correct to use double inverted commas for emphasis?

In British English, single marks are more common, but doubles are also correct.

What are quotation marks used for?

Quotation marks indicate speech, quotations, and specific phrases.

Are inverted commas used in reporting speech?

Yes, they are used to report what someone has said.

Can quotation marks be used for titles?

Yes, they're used for short work titles like articles or poems.

Are inverted commas used for quotations from texts?

Yes, for quoting directly from another source.

When should quotation marks be avoided?

Avoid them for indirect speech or paraphrasing.

Should quotation marks be used for sarcasm?

They can be, to indicate that a word is used sarcastically.

Can I use single quotation marks in American English?

Yes, but they are typically used within double quotation marks.

Are inverted commas necessary for all quotations?

Yes, for clarity and to indicate a direct quote.

Can I use quotation marks for dialogue in a story?

Absolutely, they are essential for indicating dialogue.

Can inverted commas enclose a single word?

Yes, especially for highlighting or indicating special usage.

Do inverted commas differ in appearance across fonts?

Yes, their appearance can vary slightly with different typefaces.
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.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons