International quotation marks

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I'm reading a danish book with quotations marks like »these« (isn't that also how the french do it?). In the norwegian school we learnt „these”, but as Microsoft came along most people switched to "these", or «these».
If you know any others, please share your knowledge!

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I should mention norwegian keyboards only has "these", so I guess thats the standard.

Edit: Smartypants changed them, but the ones most people use are actually the mark for inches.

Nick Shinn's picture

Here are the conventions for primary and secondary quotes.

„Afrikaans, Dutch, Polish”
‚Afrikaans, Dutch, Polish’

„Bulgarian, Czech, German, Icelandic, Lithuanian, Slovak, Serbian, Romanian“
‚Bulgarian, Czech, German, Icelandic, Lithuanian, Slovak, Serbian, Romanian‘

»Danish, Croatian«
›Danish, Croatian‹

«Greek, Spanish, Albanian, Switzerland, Turkish»
‹Greek, Spanish, Albanian, Turkish›


“American English, Irish, Portuguese”
‘American English, Irish, Portuguese’

”Finnish, Swedish”
’Finnish, Swedish’

“French” or ‹French›


twistedintellect's picture

Note on Norwegian... Frode: Well, it's true that only the inches-marks are standard issue on our keyboards, but most text editing software will change it to proper “quotation marks”. And I do think “these” are more common in modern (post DTP-revolution) Norwegian writing than «these», following the American convention…

Italian, by the way follows the «French» conventions, older German typographers may adhere to the »Danish/Croatian«-style (I think that convention may have originated in Germany, as well, but my mind may be playing tricks on me on that one...)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Thank you. On Norway: My experience is that «arrow quotes» is mostly used in magazines and newspapers (professional), but daily use for most people are "".

clauses's picture

Here is the list that is taught in Denmark (Scanned from 'Den nye Selmar' p. 45)

So in Danish you have the choice of guillemot and 'curly' quotes. Since the advent of computers and DTP software the Anglo way of setting 'curly' quotation marks have spread, though mostly amongst non-designers and art directors, alas. It is rarely found in books, magazines or newspapers though (as far as I remember).

dezcom's picture



joeclark's picture

Canadian English follows American English quotation-mark norms with no modification. How odd to leave that out of the list.

The Wikipedia article on quotation marks seems to be well accepted. Maybe this is one of the articles they mostly got right.

Joe Clark

mosh's picture

I am not sure as to which are the quotation marks used mostly in Spain, but in Mexico at least, the kind of marks you see everywhere are in “this” fashion.

Nick Shinn's picture

How odd to leave that out of the list.

I guess I must have dropped my patriotic guard at the time I copied that list, from a website (lost the original URL I'm afraid) that didn't include Canadian, and reproduced it unedited. Thanks for the update.

twardoch's picture

Edit: Current practice: 1st level: „Polish”. 2nd level: »Polish«.

Igor Freiberger's picture

Small addition to Portuguese:
– in Brazil: “1st level” and ‘2dn level’.
– in Portugal: «1st level» and ‹2nd level›.

In other Portuguese-speaking countries (Angola, Mozambique, etc.), «1» and ‹2› is the main form, although there is a gradual increase of “1” and ‘2’ usage. In Portugal this trend also occurs, but slowly.

riccard0's picture

«Italian, “before” computer keyboards»

“Italian, ‘after’ computer keyboards”

Maxim Zhukov's picture
  • Russian «primary» quote marks;
  • Russian „secondary“ quote marks.
quadibloc's picture

What, no one mentioned 『CJK』 and 「cjk」 yet, the primary and secondary quotation marks typically used for Chinese and Japanese?

lindenhayn's picture

> older German typographers may adhere
> to the »Danish/Croatian«-style

it's not so much a question of the typographer's age, but rather one of their aesthetic standards and/or technical know-how.

„German (I don't care whether my quotation marks look awful)“
»German (I prefer quotation marks that don't disrupt the text, and know how to typeset them properly)«
«German (me, too, but I'm kinda special)»

In most well-crafted German books you'll find the second version; guillemets pointing inside. Sometimes, very rarely, though, you may find them pointing outside (with little to no spacing), which is considered correct as well, and standard in (the German-speaking parts of?) Switzerland, AFAIK.

Speaking of guillemets: have there been any attempts to introduce them to the English-speaking world? Whenever I write English texts, I'm tempted to use them, for they look so much better, but I can't remember a single English book that used them...

BTW, this is how Gill does it. He seems to agree that the standard ones are disruptive and lowers the left ones (which is great), but doesn't have the balls to do the same on the right side... looks terrible IMHO.

charles ellertson's picture

Whenever I write English texts, I'm tempted to use them, for they look so much better . . .

Really? Not to me. It is probably a cultural thing. For another variance, see

In any case, if you wrote in English for an English publication, the editor would insist on the normal convention.

dezcom's picture

"...the editor would insist ..."

Don't they always insist on everything? Those pesky devils who fail to see a visual need that trumps their set-in-stone set of rules ;-)

The truth is, most English speakers (particularly those unfamiliar with other languages like we Americans) would find it confusing.

I rather like the look of them, though--"lay on, guillemets!" :-)

kentlew's picture

> BTW, this is how Gill does it. He seems to agree that the standard ones are disruptive and lowers the left ones

Actually, I’m pretty sure Gill didn’t specifically “lower the left ones.” I believe that in this case Gill was employing the approach known as a “turned comma.” One may suppose that at this time, Gill had not cut or cast an opening quote mark for Joanna. In this essay, he has instead taken a comma and turned it 180° to serve as his opening quote mark.

Because of the position of the baseline on the body (i.e., the ascenders and descenders are nearly the same length), the turned comma in Joanna winds up positioned at about the x-height.

This was an antiquated practice even then, reflecting the evolution of the quotation mark.

The apostrophe existed prior to the use of modern quotation marks. During the early development of the [English-speaking] quotation style we’re familiar with today, there was a period of time when the apostrophe doubled as a closing quote mark and a comma was turned to mark the opening.

In time, as this convention for open and close quote marks took hold, a dedicated opening quote mark was cast to improve the alignment.

lindenhayn's picture

thanks, Kent! I remember reading about the evolution of the quotation mark some time ago, but I didn't realize Gill might have been, well, »quoting« that evolution :)

>> for they look so much better
> Really? Not to me.

Really, they do (to me)! The usual English, German, etc. ones (“” and „“) create unsightly holes in the text because most of the space they occupy is above x-height (or below the baseline), and they can cause confusion because they resemble or are identical to apostrophes (and commas).

I don't think my aversion to them is a cultural thing -- as a matter of fact, there's many things in foreign typographic cultures that I'd love to see more often in German typographic culture (and have started using whereever I can), such as the British (and Canadian?) practice of omitting the period in abbreviations like »Dr« and »Mr«.

Igor Freiberger's picture

I think the possible confusion between quotes, commas, apostrophes, primes and glotal stops shows that 6699 quotes are not the best solution. Guillemets give a more even and distinct result, although we hardly have a choice about the system to use.

dezcom's picture

Sometimes, even though the snail crawls very slowly, he eventually comes to a new destination. He must be fed to make it, though.

quadibloc's picture

I know that I've seen some English-language books, typeset in Weiss Roman or Palatino, in which guillemets (pointing inwards, in the German style) were used. This is because they were from German publishers.

Since Germany still uses parentheses the same way most of the world does (I remember one area - was it Armenia? - where they are reversed being discussed here), I'm not surprised, though, that some people are confused and use guillemets the French or Swiss way instead, as suggested by the correspondence in appearance between them and parentheses.

The typewriter single and double quotes are distinct - in Unicode as well as in appearance - from the symbols for "minutes" and "seconds" as parts of a degree, the former being vertical and the latter being sloped. As far as what the proper symbol for "inches" might be, I would have to find a typeset book on carpentry, or drafting - and, in fact, I would be inclined to look at several of them, not being at all confident that even if there was a proper standard for the symbol, it would in fact be consistently adhered to.

However, I suspect that the symbol for "minutes" is also used for "feet", and the symbol for "seconds" is also used for "inches". The alternative, using conventional 6699 quotes, would, I think, look jarring, and vertical typewriter-style quotes, while they are what people using typewriters had to use, were not among the sorts available on a Linotype, even though there was a similar-looking character, but not positioned high enough to serve that purpose.

Té Rowan's picture

From all that I've read, yes, a single prime quote is used for both feet and arc-minutes, and a double prime quote for both inches and arc-seconds. I suspect it's a typewriter/ASCII habit to use upright quotes instead of prime quotes.

charles ellertson's picture

As long as we're mooting changing conventions, I much prefer the Dutch "filosofie" to the English "philosophy".

dezcom's picture

I prefer the original Φιλοσοφία

hrant's picture

I myself heartily recommend that you use guillemets for English!
They look and work great - much better than conventional quotes.
(BTW it's actually been done before - although very rarely.)


Té Rowan's picture

Pointing into the sentence? Or out of it?

hrant's picture

I would prefer to see them pointing outward, because it encloses the space more sensically (like parentheses). But either way is better than the convention.

BTW, perhaps the ideal quoting glyphs are what I call "quotemets":

See also these two threads:


dezcom's picture

I quite like the guillemets (also pointing out). They set off the text without those weird holes and keep the natural rhythm of the text.

Té Rowan's picture

I haven't seen Icelandic text set with guillemets in a long time, so I can't remember how it was done. My mind says 'pointing out', though it could be my esthetics meddling.

Aside: The quote dash is still used a lot.

Aside 2: There are no hard-and-fast rules for use of punctuation up here, only an Announcement from Miniduc (the Ministry of Education) on what will be taught in schools.

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