Omniscient Discoveries 6: Double or Single Quotes?

I’ve talked about commentaryhead hoppingpoint of viewdialogue, and who’s story it’s about. In this article, I’m going to talk about why I might put something in double quotes or single quotes.

Double Quotes

I call these the higher level quotes. Doubles quotes have the following inside them.

My made-up words (more or less made up 😛 )

EXAMPLE: It was very much like a “gathering of podsnappery”.

(These words can give you a chance to show some culture or history and bring the reader into the era or mood of the story you want to portray.)


My sarcastic/satirical opinion on a situation or on the actions of a character. Usually implying my eye-roll or scoff.

EXAMPLE: Nothing could really get in the way of his “genius plan”.

(The key for this one is to not overdo it. When possible, let the sarcasm and satire speak for itself without putting sarcastic/satirical tone-of-voice quotation mark effects.)


Fictional newspapers’ headlines or other widely-known phrases within that fictional place and among those fictional citizens

I like to put newspaper headlines in double-quotes because I want you to believe these are real. I also like to put widely-known phrases in double-quotes. Widely-known means that all the citizens in Town A know this phrase.

EXAMPLE: The people of Heather saw the hot weather “as dense as a dictionary” and no one would say otherwise.

(You don’t have to add “and no one would say otherwise” or “and they all agreed” or anything of that sort to justify the phrase. I think people don’t always need that extra commentary.)


Things characters have said or written

EXAMPLE: She wrote “sons” and to bring “them”. What could she have possibly meant?

EXAMPLE: Although he said “two-thirty sharp”, he really meant much later in the day.

(The purpose is to highlight certain words or phrases. I tend to keep those quotes to 1 to 4 words at most. I just don’t see any point in quoting an entire monologue, for example.)


Newspaper articles’ passages, book passages, or songs if a character is reading or singing it

EXAMPLE: “Last night on December 31st, there was a large event hosted in the south square, celebrating an annual festival…”

(If a character picks up a newspaper and begins to read without reading out loud, I will put the newspaper article in double quotes to make it seem real. The same with book passages and songs.)


Commonly known titles for people

EXAMPLE: He was “his lordship” to the peasants of the town.

(If a title for a person is common known among the citizens of the area, I will put it in double quotes.)

Single Quotes

I call these “head hopping without head hopping” quotes or, “would be italics thoughts in a non-omniscient setting” quotes. These kinds of quotes have the following inside them.

Characters naming or describing things like objects or animals, situations, actions, or other characters

EXAMPLE: Henry dubbed himself, for ten minutes, as a ‘Cracks Expert’ – someone who is an expert on fissures and cracks in the walls.

EXAMPLE: He was ‘a man of utmost gluttony’ and Richard hated him.

(This is a good quote effect to bring out a character’s personality or their opinions on a situation, an action, or another character.)


A word or phrase belonging to the character. These words or phrases are those which the character thought and, therefore, it is their word or phrase

EXAMPLE: Henry was expelled for ‘unruly behavior’. (in single quotes because Henry’s teacher said this and they are her words.)

EXAMPLE: He was seeing how he could ‘improve’ on her. (The man’s phrasing is unique and adds to the context in this part of the story.)

(When quoting a character’s thoughts, I tend to keep it short and I also tend to make sure the quote is consistent with the character’s personality and I make sure it is important in context.)


Characters quoting things that other characters have said. But the quoting is happening internally in a thought.

EXAMPLE: “How horrible! Egad!” said Margaret. Lucy rolled her eyes at her sister for using ‘egad’. She had no idea what Margaret meant.

(In a non-omniscient context, these would be italics thoughts. Lucy rolled her eyes at her sister. Egad? What did she mean? I have no idea, Lucy thought. It’s a character’s internal response to something another character said.)


Keep in mind that with double quotes or single quotes, when you quote something, you are highlighting that word or phrase. Readers will pay attention to it so these quotes must be meaningful in some way.

Anyway, this is what I do with single and double quotes in omniscient-style writing and how I play around with it. I think it’s okay if you don’t follow this, but whatever you do, keep the consistency 🙂

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