Replacing the unknown quote marks with underscores, let’s say we’re trying to write this:

He responds, “Joe said ‘Mark said _I’m not coming._’”

One option is to alternate: He responds, “Joe said ‘Mark said “I’m not coming.”’”

Would it be crazy to use single or double angle quote marks? Like: He responds, “Joe said ‘Mark said ‹I’m not coming.›’”

I’m getting nowhere googling it.

Is there a better option?

I realize that, generally, the text will read better if it’s rephrased to nest less deeply. But I ask not as an author, but somebody formatting others’ work.

Edit: 91727, and the question it’s marked a duplicate of, are not duplicates of this question because they discuss two-deep embedded quotes, whereas this question assumes the solution to two-deep quotes (use single quotes) and asks about quotes three or more levels deep.

  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth Thanks for the link. Please see my edit.
    – twhb
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 9:42
  • Didn't you check the response mentioning nested quotes to 3 levels? You could also look up 'nested quotes' on the internet. Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 9:46
  • In any case, rules for three sets of quotation marks is unquestionably a duplicate. Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 9:49
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth I can't seem to find that response on that page, but I agree, that last link is a duplicate. Thank you! Couldn't find it because it didn't have the tags I expected, maybe you could accept my edit adding them.
    – twhb
    Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 9:52
  • Yes; the only sane conclusion I can come up with is that the tag wasn't around in those days. // '...Usually, I would quote with doubles, and then singles within. But this is becoming a bit confusing and ugly too, when working with some translated literature in which it is very, very common for someone to quote someone, who then quotes another, and the chain goes on. Would I retain the principle of using double quotes initially when I quote the passage, and then keep using singles in the embeds/nests?' Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 11:45

1 Answer 1


I would use quote marks building up e.g. 'Joe said "Mark said '''I'm not coming."""

I'm not definitely sure if this is the proper way but it's how I have always done it since I was young and I've never been corrected on it.

By the way, if it was Joe telling you what Mark said, you would put: Joe said that Mark said that he wasn't coming.

This is as much as I can tell you.

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