How Do You Punctuate a Quote Used as a Headline?

A reader writes:

All the info out there is about using quotation marks around the title of other authors' articles. But I just wrote a long article for a newsletter and the title I chose for it was a phrase quoted from a person I was writing about in the article. Therefore, I put quote marks around my article's title in the newsletter. Was that right? It looks funny, but it didn't seem right not to use the quote marks. By the way, the full quotation where the phrase came from is within the article.

ANSWER: Single quotes, rather than double quotes, seem to be the preferred punctuation for article titles with quoted text; although I find no sources that specifically address using only a quote as the entire headline. The closest I could come to a real answer are a few references to using quoted words within a newspaper or newsletter headline. 

WikiHow uses the example of: Congressman Shouts 'Liar' at Pres

Lifetips doesn't differentiate between using a portion of a quote or the full quote as a headline but does say to use single quote marks, not double quotes.

I think in the case described by our reader, single curly quotes around the headline would have gotten the point across although I'd be more inclined to rewrite the headline so that you were using your own words plus a portion of the quoted material — using the single quotes to more readily show that it is a quote and not just some stray marks around the headline:

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(The full quote by Doc Childre and Howard Martin is "You're writing the story of your life one moment at a time." Sayings About Time: About.com Quotations)

Another option is to paraphrase the quote for your title. According to Simran Khurana in Paraphrasing Quotations, sometimes a paraphrased quote can have more impact than a direct quote.

For more on using quotations marks both grammatically and typographically as well as writing headlines for your newsletters and marketing materials, see these resources:

Using Quotation Marks

Typesetting Quotation Marks

Writing Headlines

 

  • Writing headlines (based on a lecture by Ross Collins, associate professor of communication, North Dakota State University) focuses on newspaper headline writing but also goes into how to set up and copyfit headlines using Adobe InDesign.

     

  • How to Write Effective Headlines is a brief lesson aimed at those doing desktop publishing, including writing their own marketing materials or newsletters.

     

  • Writing Headlines for Advertisements from About.com Advertising helps you write consumer-oriented headlines for your ad materials.