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When reading something that has a quote in the middle of it, is it proper to say "end quote" or "unquote" to signal the end of the quote? I've heard both ways.

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Also "close quote" especially in programming circles. This is parallel to the use of "open" and "close" parenthesis, braces, and brackets. –  dmckee Dec 23 '10 at 22:25
Someone tell me where I got "en quote" from, which is what I have thought it was my entire life....when my 11 year old told me it was unquote, I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. Did I have a bad instructor or something? –  user7802 Apr 26 '11 at 2:24
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5 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Both are fine and have been used for decades, as far as I know. The OED on "unquote":

intr. Used as a formula in dictation, etc.: terminate the quotation. See quote v. 4c.

1935 E. E. Cummings Let. Mar. (1969) 139 But he said that if I'd hold up publication of No Thanks for 15 days he'd kill unquote a page of Aiken.

1935, etc. [see quote v. 4c].

1969 New Yorker 11 Oct. 48/2 Then Mr. Tanks announced the last downtown stop. He said, ‘Madison Square Garden, Penn Station+et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, unquote’.

The OED on "quote (v.)":


[4.]c. quote ... unquote: a formula used in dictation to introduce and terminate a quotation. Freq. transf., in speech or writing, introducing and terminating words quoted (or ironically imagined to be quoted) from the speech or writing of another.

1935 E. E. Cummings Let. 3 Oct. (1969) 145 The Isful ubiquitous wasless&-shallbeless quote scrotumtightening unquote omnivorously eternal thalassa pelagas or Ocean.

1950 ‘S. Ransome’ Deadly Miss Ashley xvii. 198 She says, quote, ‘What girl wouldn't?’ unquote.

1956 Times 5 Dec. 1/5 (Advt.), Today, America, you sure are quote in the Big Time unquote.

1958 B. Hamilton Too Much of Water xi. 245 But he did have, quote, a jolly good reason for bumping off one special person, unquote.

1961 P. Ustinov Loser viii. 140 He expressed the personal opinion that the picture was quote great for America unquote.

1973 D. Robinson Rotten with Honour 8 The British…see too many people like you in London.+ East Germans, Bulgarians, and Rumanians, all of them quote diplomats unquote

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Based on my experience:

  • If accompanied by air quotes, the term is definitely unquote.

  • If it's referring to the punctuation mark, end quote is definitely correct.

  • If it directly follows the word "quote", it's unquote. (In other words, the phrase is "quote unquote", not "quote end quote".)

  • In a formal context, if you must use the words (rather than using punctuation and formatting to mark quotations), stick to end quote.

Otherwise, either term is fair game.

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Magnificent answer. –  The Raven Apr 17 '11 at 14:08
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I've heard people say "unquote" but always assumed it was a corruption of end-quote. Wiktionary backs up this assertion. A quick search of the Corpus of Conteporary American English finds 288 instances of unquote near "quote", typically in a phrase such as

He was, quote, unquote, busy.

So unquote is definitely a word that people are using.

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I'm not sure how I'd punctuate "quote unquote", but I'm pretty sure there shouldn't be a comma within the phrase. Perhaps "He was --quote unquote-- busy." –  Marthaª Dec 23 '10 at 8:35
@Martha: I copied the punctuation from the COCA. But I do like your way better. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 23 '10 at 14:00
@Rhodri: I agree. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 23 '10 at 14:01
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One cannot "unquote" a phrase or word if it is being quoted, unless of course you want to remove the word or phrase being quoted. Doesn't that make sense? To "seal" a quote, one must "end quote", or, "end of quote" which satifies and finalizes the context stated. The term "unquote" must have become common when it was accidently misconstrued with "end quote".

I value what my eighth grade teacher taught the lot of us upon a student "quoting" and "unquoting" something said that I've long forgotten. But I will always remember his lesson to be shared immediately there after on a quoted word or phrase...

If anyone can search historically where this term might have become transformed to it's hideous present (save many reporters and announcers on NPR), I would appreciate the info!

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In general, I have always heard "quote-unquote" used in direct sequence before a single word, often one which is being questioned. Example: He insists that low fat products are quote-unquote healthy!

Of course you would never actually write the "quote-unquote". It is for spoken word only. When writing you just put quotations around the word "healthy"

As for "quote" and "end quote", they are used around the body of an actual quotation.

He insists that quote low fat prooducts are the way to go for those trying to persue a healty diet. end quote

Here again, these things are never written, just used during spoken communication to clarify the part of the sentence which is a quotation.

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