I am careful about placing attribution to quotes in assignments. Occasionally, in assignments, I must use quote marks for purposes other than quoting, but my instructor misinterprets this as a "quote missing a citation".

In the Wikipedia article on Quotation Marks, one can find a list of examples of other uses of quotation marks. Suppose I need to use quotation marks to "signal unusual usage" ("Quotation Marks", 2014) or show some "distinction" in "usage" ("Quotation Marks", 2014) or even scare quotes. Is there any way in which I can indicate this, in APA style?

  • Providing an example or two would help a lot here. – aeismail Jun 19 '14 at 9:15
  • I meant an example in situ: show as an actual example sentence or two containing such a use of quotation marks. – aeismail Jun 19 '14 at 12:57

APA does not provide a distinction. It is assumed that all thinks enclosed in quotation makes are either quotes, and therefore attributed, or something "special". The hope is that your text clarifies the reason for the quotation mark. In most well written papers, the reason for the quotation marks is pretty obvious. Therefore APA style does not mandate a difference in usage.

As to why your instructor is flagging them up, it is possible your instructor is using some sort of automated system to find the missing citations or that your usage of quotation marks is excessive or improper. It is probably best to talk to the instructor to figure out what is going on.


Normally referencing styles (APA, Harvard, etc.) address the issue of referencing the work of others. The "example" you have given is not an issue of using someone else's work and, therefore, I do not believe it would be addressed in any referencing system.

Your instructor should certainly understand the idea that quotes are commonly used for many reasons, including indicating a turn of phrase which might not be obvious to some. For example, I would not badmouth my boss because I "know which side my bread is buttered on." Clearly this is not a quote but rather a turn of phase, a saying, or an "idiom."

All that said, I do see a lot of student who forget to cite direct quotes and, as an instructor, it is very frustrating to me.

If you are using idiomatic expressions, with which your instructor is unfamiliar, you might add a footnote explaining it to "lend a helping hand."

  • APA style is much much more that just a referencing style. It is a 250+ page book covering all aspects of manuscript presentation style of which referencing is 2 chapters. It is much more similar to Chicago and MLA. – StrongBad Jun 19 '14 at 9:43

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