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Manual: Quotation Marks

There is such thing as single guillemets; hanging quotation marks is no particularly good taste; inch symbols have to be dumb. And finally, a grand list of all quotation marks in main European languages.

May 14, 2020

In Russian language, these paired symbols are used for marking direct speech or quotations, plus as indicated below:

§ 193. Quotation marks are utilized to set off: words used not in their usual meaning; words used ironically; words used for the first time — and vice versa, archaisms, unordinary words and so on, e.g.:

У нас, как я уже говорил, ещё и по сию пору царствует в литературе какое-то жалкое, детское благоговение к авторам: мы в литературе высоко чтим «табель о рангах» и боимся говорить вслух правду о «высоких персонах» (Белинский).

As I mentioned earlier, this pathetic, childish respect for authors still prevails in our literature: we attach highest value to “Table of Ranks”, being afraid of speaking out loud the truth about “highly-ranking figures”. (Vissarion Belinsky)

Вся деятельная сторона чувства законности совершенно исчезает в «тёмном царстве» и остаётся одна пассивная (Добролюбов).

The active part of the sense of legitimate vanishes in the “dark realm” without a trace, and only its passive part remains. (Nikolai Dobrolyubov)

Рано весной, как только сойдёт снег и станет обсыхать «ветошь», т. е. прошлогодняя трава, начинаются «палы», or лесные пожары (С. Аксаков).

In the early spring as the snow melts and the “dead”, last-year grass dries off, “wildfires”, or surface fires, begin. (Serguei Aksakov)

§ 194. Quotation marks are used to denote names of literary works, newspapers, magazines, enterprises, etc., which are titles or code names such as:

«Капитал» Маркса (Capital by Karl Marx)
«Война и мир» (War and Peace)
газета «Правда» (Pravda newspaper)
колхоз «Путь к коммунизму» (Road to Communism collective farm)
шахта «Мария» (Maria mine)
линкор «Парижская коммуна» (Parizhskaya Kommuna battleship)

Please note: The quotation marks are not utilized in names with the elements like “named after…”, “in memory of…”, i.e.:

Государственный академический театр драмы имени А. С. Пушкина. (Russian State Pushkin Academy Drama Theatre)
Больница памяти 26 комиссаров. (26 Commissars Memorial Hospital)

Rules of Russian Spelling and Punctuation, 1956

Guillemets (French quotation marks, Chevrons)


Guillemets « » are used in Russian, French, German, Italian, and numerous other languages. In Russian, French, Italian, Swiss German and other traditions, the guillemets are pointing outwards, like this: « », while in Germany these marks are pointing inwards: » «.

Alongside with double guillemets, there are single guillemets, ‹ ›. Those can be deployed as secondary quotation marks, for example in French and Portuguese. The single guillemets are not to be confused with angular brackets, or greater-than (and less-than) signs, as these three are separate groups of symbols. Single guillemets are of the same proportion and shape as double ones. Even though some Asian languages use angular brackets in lieu of quotation marks, i.e. Tibetan or Tai Nuea, it would be a mistake to utilize them as such in European typography.

02_eng Difference between quotation marks, angular brackets, and greater-than (less-than) signs


Normally, guillemets are smaller than lowercase characters. With text faces and styles, a quotation mark is not supposed to get too much attention — therefore its angle and size are defined by proportions of the alphabet symbols.

03 Guillemets in some of typefaces

However, it is often the case that guillemets are standing out in a typeset, that they are distinctive. There are certain system fonts, where guillemets look discernibly different from lowercase letters in terms of their optical weight.

04 Guillemets in Gill Sans and Times New Roman are too heavy, — while in Helvetica, on the contrary, they appear too small against lowercase characters. In a straight text with lots of quotation marks like these could undermine the rhythm

In certain display typefaces, the guillemets are intentionally assertive, bigger or smaller than lowercase letters. Such typefaces are not intended for setting long texts in small sizes, which explains why the marks’ shape could seek attention on purpose — or even constitute a key styling element.

05 Guillemets in display typefaces

Within a font family, proportions and placement of guillemets, just like glyphs themselves, vary according to style: in text style, guillemets would be wider because of letter proportions, probably aligned with lowercase characters, — while in display styles those marks often rise above the apparent lowercase center.

Placement of guillemets depends on the x-height of typeface: the more display the style, the smaller is its x-height — which makes quotation marks look slightly elevated.

06 Guillemets in Gauge Family, as well as other punctuation marks, adapt to the x-height

Curly quotation marks (Curved, Inverted commas)


Curly quotation marks are common in English, Russian, German, Spanish and other language traditions. In Russian, this type is most commonly utilized as secondary quotation marks, i.e. marks enclosed within other marks.

The variant of quotation marks depends on the language. For example, in German and Russian one should use two lower nines and two upper sixes, „ “, while in English that would be two upper sixes and two upper nines: “ ”. It is very important not to confuse the marks with single and double primes (see below).


In serif typefaces, the shape of curved quotation marks is usually similar to the comma. In sans serifs and modern serifs, the shape of the glyph can be different from commas and have a form of a slash. The slope of the symbol would indicate, whether it is an opening or a closing mark.


Straight quotes: Fake quotation marks, or Dumb quotation marks


Straight quotes are the most common type of quotation marks since the invention of computers and until today — despite the fact that designers and typographers refuse to consider them as such at all. The use of straight quotes (aka dumb quotes) is considered a grave typographic mistake, since proper quotation marks are two paired symbols.

The double straight quote dates back to the age of typewriters: in order to save space, many manufacturers chose to leave only one button for typesetting both opening and closing marks. Through the arrival of ASCII ASCIIA 128-symbol encoding standard, initially published in 1963, for use in teletype machines., the restriction was imported to computers.

Normally those glyphs look like vertical primes and hardly have any contrast, or get narrower at the bottom. Single straight quote ' is used to represent feet or arcminutes; double " represents inches or arcseconds. Unicode provides separate values for feet and inches symbols (prime and double prime, respectively), but many fonts lack those glyphs.

If a font has its own proper prime glyphs, their forms would be different from straight quotes: typically, primes have greater slope and/or greater contrast. In certain cases the proportions and height would also be different.

10 On the left, double straight quotes; on the right, primes in typefaces

Primes for inches and feet are put after numbers, and it is important to relate these symbols with each other. Whereas quotation marks are deployed with alphabetic characters, numerals and punctuation marks; can be put ahead of neighboring glyphs or after them; can be opening or closing.

When it comes to complicated texts with plenty of quotations and special symbols, the difference between the straight and the proper quotes is crucially important — however in everyday online communication people usually opt for the straight ones. With regard to such practices, some authors seek to design straight quotes suitable for use as quotation marks. Others, on the contrary, do their best for making smart and dumb quotes look entirely different from each other in terms of shape.

11 12 Dumb and smart marks in various typefaces. Even if the proper quotation marks appear similar to straight ones, you can always define an opening, or closing, quotation mark by its slope or contrast

Even though today most software substitutes smart quotes be default, you should never completely trust the algorithm and rely on it.

Spacing out and kerning quotation marks

In French, guillemets are spaced out by non-breaking space, or by a thin space (if it is decent typography). In Russian typesetting the content enclosed in quotation marks isn’t spaced out.

Quotation marks and brackets are not spaced out from the words enclosed within them. You should never space out punctuation marks from brackets or quotation marks.

Pinkhus Gilenson Handbook for Technical and Art Editors

According to Jan Tschichold, such quotation marks shall be spaced out with the use of a hair space.

French guillemets might be better called duck-foot quotes, since German marks don’t look like such. ⟨…⟩ These guillemets always have to be spaced out by a hair-space, except when they precede letters of triangular shape, or those with large distances to downstroke, such as A, J, T, V, W, as well as after a full point.

Jan Tschichold The Form of the Book

A typographer should take into account not only the language tradition — but also a typeface. To avoid possible coalescence of glyphs, type designers can intentionally provide for large sidebearings in guillemets.

13 In Gauge, angular guillemets have significantly larger sidebearings, — it hardly needs any spacing. Minion Pro’s guillemets carry almost usual sidebearings, — depending on the situation, they can be spaced out by hair-spaces

When it comes to curly quotation marks, the main problem is not spacing but kerning. In different languages, these marks can belong to different cases and be pointing different directions, — while the very same curly quotation marks can be both opening or closing, depending on the language. Which is why there are numerous choices of possible kerning pairs, and a typeface can provide for not all of them. For example, there might be kerning for quotes in English but it won’t include kerning for quotes in Russian or Polish, where opening quotation marks are placed at the bottom.

Many typefaces don’t provide kerning between punctuation marks, full point or comma, and the upper closing quotation mark. This results in a hole, ruining the typeset. You have to keep an eye on situations like that and adjust things manually, if necessary.


Vertical alignment

Angular quotation marks are usually vertically aligned with the apparent center of lowercase letters, and they might “sink” if the enclosed text is set in uppercase. The alignment can be adjusted using the relevant OpenType feature. If a font doesn’t provide this option, you would have to elevate the marks manually.


Curly quotes aligned to the top normally work well with both lowercase and uppercase characters. However, when the x-height is small, the quotation marks or apostrophe can be located too high against lowercase letters. This might be especially true in large sizes, in which case you have to level the symbols down to lowercase letters.

17 If the x-height is too small, quotation marks and apostrophes in large sizes can be placed too far from lowercase

Lower curly quotation marks are aligned in the same way as commas. There are typefaces equipped with special curly quotes for the true small-caps, aligned in accordance with their size.

18 Curly quotation marks for small caps

Using quotation marks in typeset

Many type traditions include several types of quotation marks. Russian standard prescribes the use of angular quotation marks.

However, since there is no strict requirement, it is not wrong to use curly marks “ ” as primary quotation marks. In fact, Russian speakers mostly use curly quotation marks in writing, as those are simpler and more natural for hand-writing. There are certain script typefaces where the use of curved quotes would be justifiable.

The choice of quotation marks can depend on historical background — or on the desired purpose of given typeset. The key is to be consistent in use of quotation marks, avoiding different kinds of marks in similar situations, — and not to deploy straight quotes in lieu thereof.


There are certain situations where internal Cyrillic quotations become justifiably primary. And this practice is not so foreign as it might initially seem. In some contexts, there are not any alternatives to them.

In my view, nothing is more absurd than chevrons in script typefaces. It simply contradicts the way we used to write quotation marks by hand and what they taught us at school. The same logic applies to blackletter. Chevrons will look ridiculous and historically inaccurate in gothic type. Fraktur is a kind of cuneiform, when you think about it. Curly quotes are fully compliant with esthetics.

Another inaccuracy in style (just as inconceivable) is to use any quotation mark other than this very wrong straight quote while typesetting by fonts based on typewriter types. Just because typewriters never had other quotation marks.

When choosing quotation marks, one should consider not only the tradition of a particular language or country, but also the grammar. For example, a single closing top-aligned mark is of the same shape as apostrophe  — and it is one glyph in the typeface. If a language uses apostrophes, you have to be careful with single curly quotes — since they are easily confused with apostrophes, you risk creating problems for readers. To avoid those, Jan Tschichold suggests spacing out single quotation marks:

British people differentiate between single quotation marks ‘n’, and double quotation marks “n”. Many good English typographers currently prefer single quotation marks for setting off direct speech, because double quotation marks tend to disturb the placid typeset scenery. We also recommend using spaces so that your quotation marks don’t look like an apostrophe.

Jan Tschichold The Form of the Book

That being said, everything depends on the situation and the particular text.

19 Single quotation marks are regarded prevailing in British English, although double marks are much better read next to an apostrophe

20 In Dutch language, an apostrophe can precede the letter, denoting an abbreviation. In this case you can space out a single quotation mark by narrow space — or resort to a simpler solution by putting double marks

In Russian and German, an opening curly quotation mark is aligned with the baseline. Friedrich Forssman suggests avoiding their use:

„German“ quotation marks are not that easy to read and don’t look as good as » «.

— Because they look like apostrophes and commas,

— They interfere with the line, and our eye has to get below the optical center of the text.

On the other hand, French quotation marks don’t get mixed with other punctuation marks and embrace the line rhythm.

Friedrich Forssman Detailtypografie

Some texts happen to have more than just one level of quotation. In Russian, guillemets are the first to use; then you shall utilize double curved quotation marks; if a third level is needed, one normally deploys single guillemets.

If the quotation needs third level marks, meaning there are more enclosed words in quoted phrases within a quotation, it is recommended to use single curved marks, or double curved marks, if no other option is available.

We recommend:

М. М. Бахтин писал: «Тришатов рассказывает подростку о своей любви к музыке и развивает перед ним замысел оперы: „Послушайте, любите вы музыку? Я ужасно люблю… Если бы я сочинял оперу, то, знаете, я бы взял сюжет из ,Фауста‘. Я очень люблю эту тему“».

It is also safe to put it like this:

М. М. Бахтин писал: «Тришатов рассказывает подростку о своей любви к музыке и развивает перед ним замысел оперы: „Послушайте, любите вы музыку? Я ужасно люблю… Если бы я сочинял оперу, то, знаете, я бы взял сюжет из „Фауста“. Я очень люблю эту тему“».

(The name of the book, Faust, has to be put in quotes in Russian, even if it is enclosed within two quotations, ,Фауст‘ or „Фауст”, — translator’s note)

Arkady Milchin and Lyudmila Cheltsova The Publisher’s and Author’s Handbook

You should pay attention to this, as it is important that our reader doesn’t get lost in levels of quoting: it can depend on the types of marks, as well as on their shape or kerning.

There is no such thing as the common rules on typesetting multi-language texts: a designer has to decide judging on particular context. If it is a short quotation in foreign language, you might apply marks from the main language. When the book consists of texts in several languages, or we have a bibliography, including sources in various languages, it would make sense to apply various sorts of quotation marks, typical in any given language.

21 An English-language quote enclosed within Russian text. The use of English marks here is not reasonable, as it would only complicate reading process

It has been argued that quotation marks, just like other punctuation symbols, shall surpass the outside margin. It is important to understand that these practices are not based on some typesetting rules or traditions; in many cases the marks surpassing the quotes surpassed the margin (or vice versa, moved a text column) to highlight a quotation — yet in that case the marks hung on the left of each line quoted. That way the quotations marks drew attention to the entire text block, and not to themselves.

22 Quoted block is set off by opening guillemets. Excerpt from the book La science du bonhomme Richard, suivi d’extraits des ouvrage de Benjamin Franklin, published in 1834 in Belgium

Hanging punctuation marks helps save little space — for instance, in narrow columns, — yet even there you shall not forget about the uniformity of text margin.

With quotation marks of significant optical weight, not only hanging won’t compensate for ragged composition, but it will attract too much attention. In most cases, hanging quotation marks are used in a display typographic situation, and it has nothing to do with rules.

23 In Brioni Pro, quotation marks are rather big, and overhanging makes them too visible, breaking down the geometry of typesetting and ruining rhythm of reading

Summary table

Most languages have several types of quotation marks — usually, there are two, used in case of a nested quote. Apart from that division, some quotation marks are used in everyday situations and modern book publishing — while others are perceived as outdated, or too formal. The table below is not an ultimate guide, however, it covers a considerable share of European languages.

Belarusian primary « »
secondary „ “
Bulgarian primary „ “
secondary ’ ’
Catalan primary « »
secondary “ ”
Croatian primary „ ” or » «
secondary ‘ ’
Czech primary „ “
secondary ‚ ‘
alternate » « or › ‹
Danish primary » « or „ “
secondary › ‹ or ‚ ‘
Dutch primary ‘ ’
secondary “ ”
alternate, old-fashioned „ ”
(in GB)
primary ‘ ’
secondary “ ”
(in US)
primary “ ”
secondary ‘ ’
Estonian primary „ “
secondary « »
Finnish primary ” ”
secondary ’ ’
альтернативные » »
French (in France) primary « »
secondary “ ”
French (in Switzerland) primary « »
secondary ‹ ›
(in Germany and Austria)
primary » « or „ “
secondary › ‹ or ‚ ‘ соответственно
(in Switzerland and Lichtenstein)
primary « »
secondary ‹ ›
alternate „ “
Greek primary « »
secondary “ ”
Hungarian primary „ ”
secondary » «
third-level ’ ’
Irish primary “ ”
secondary ‘…’
(in Italy)
primary « » or “ ”
secondary противоположного рисунка
(in Switzerland)
primary « »
secondary ‹ ›
Latvian primary „ “ or « »
secondary same as primary
also widespread “ ”
Lithuanian primary „ “
secondary ‚…‘
Maltese primary “ ”
secondary ‘ ’
Polish primary „ ”
secondary « » or » «
(in Portugal)
primary « »
secondary “ ”
(in Brazil)
primary “ ”
secondary ‘ ’
Romanian primary „ ”
secondary « »
Russian primary « »
secondary „ “
Slovakian primary „ ”
secondary ‚ ‘
alternate » « or › ‹
Slovenian primary „ ”
secondary ‚ ‘
альтернативные » « or › ‹
Spanish primary « »
secondary “ ”
Swedish primary ” ”
secondary ’ ’
alternate » » or ’ ’
Turkish primary “ ”
secondary ‘ ’
Ukrainian primary « »
secondary „ “ or “ ”

How to type guillemets

Mac « Alt Shift =
» Alt =
Windows « Alt 0171 (on the numpad)
» Alt 0187
As this is not convenient for routine use, Windows users might benefit from the Birman Typography Layout.
Birman layout « Alt <
» Alt >

How to type curly quotes

Alt Shift /
Alt /
Alt [
Alt Shift [
Alt ]
Alt Shift ]
Windows Alt 0132
Alt 0147
Alt 0148
Alt 0145
Alt 0146
Birman layout Alt Shift <
Alt Shift >
Alt k
Alt ;
Alt '

Rules of Russian Spelling and Punctuation, 1956 (Правила русской орфографии и пунктуации)
Pinkhus Gilenson, Handbook for Technical and Art Editors (Пинхус Гиленсон «Справочник технического и художественного редакторов»)
Jan Tschichold, The Form of the Book
Friedrich Forssman, Detailtypografie
Arkady Milchin and Lyudmila Cheltsova, The Publisher’s and Author’s HandbookArkady Milchin and Lyudmila Cheltsova, The Publisher’s and Author’s Handbook (Аркадий Мильчин и Людмила Чельцова «Справочник издателя и автора»)
Dietmar Rosenthal, Handbook of Spelling and Style (Дитмар Розенталь «Справочник по правописанию и стилистике»)
Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style
Artemy Lebedev, Kovodstvo
Wikipedia, Quotation Mark
Matthew Butterick, Butterick’s Practical Typography
Alexandra Korolkova, Living Typography (Александра Королькова «Живая типографика»)
Alexey Chmel, About quotes (Алексей Чмель «Лапы ёлки, или Про кавычки»)