In English writing, quotation marks or inverted commas, also known informally as quotes, talking marks, speech marks, quote marks, quotemarks or speechmarks, are punctuation marks placed on either side of a word or phrase in order to identify it as a quotation, direct speech or a literal title or name. They are also used to indicate that the meaning of the word or phrase they surround should be taken to be different from (or, at least, a modification of) that typically associated with it (e.g. in the sentence the elite, composed by people of mixed ancestry, embraced their "whiteness" – the quotation marks modify the word whiteness to pertain to European culture rather than the colour white); in this way, they are often used to express irony. They also sometimes appear to be used as a means of adding emphasis, although this usage is usually considered incorrect.
Quotation marks are written as a pair of opening and closing marks in either of two styles: single (‘...’) or double (“...”). Opening and closing quotation marks may be identical in form (called neutral, vertical, straight, typewriter, or "dumb" quotation marks), or may be distinctly left-handed and right-handed (typographic or, colloquially, curly quotation marks). Typographic quotation marks are usually used in manuscript and typeset text. Because typewriter and computer keyboards lack keys to directly enter typographic quotation marks, much typed writing has neutral quotation marks. The "smart quotes" feature in some computer software can convert neutral quotation marks to typographic ones, but sometimes imperfectly.
The closing single quotation mark is identical or similar in form to the apostrophe and similar to the prime) symbol. However, these three characters have quite different purposes. The double quotation mark is similar to – and often used to represent – the ditto mark and the double prime symbol.