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‘Unquote’ or ‘End Quote’

A listener wondered whether Grammar Girl should be saying "end quote" instead of "unquote."

By
Mark Allen, Writing for,
Episode #684
A man pointing at an unquote (or is that an end quote?)

Listener Question:

"The question I had is when you speak about a quote. It almost sounds to me like you're saying ‘un-quote’ at the end of it. I'm hoping that you're saying ‘end quote,’ but it's just been bugging me, so I had to call you and say please don't say ‘unquote.’ Say ‘end quote,’ and I hope I haven't offended, but that's what it is as far as I know. OK. If it's different tell me."

I do say “unquote”! “Unquote” is a common and established idiom to signal the end of a quotation. And so is “end quote.” 

Maybe “unquote” sounds wrong to some people because we don’t use that term to signal an ending quotation mark. For that, we’d say “end quote” or “ending quote” or maybe “closing quotation mark.” We wouldn’t call the mark itself an “unquote.”

But if we’re talking about the quotation and not the punctuation, “unquote” has been used to signal the end of something quoted for more than 100 years. The Oxford English Dictionary has an example of “unquote” from 1910, and it also has examples of “quote-unquote,” used before or after a quotation.

A search of Google’s book corpus shows a clear preference for “unquote” over “end quote,” and doing a general Google search for the two terms returns an almost equal number of hits.

That said, one commenter on a linguistics discussion board did find earlier examples of “end quote” in early 20th century telegrams. In his sleuthing, he found that “unquote” became the more popular option around 1910.

None of the dictionaries I consulted has an entry for the two-word combination “end quote.” You can certainly say “end quote,” to signal the end of a quotation, but “unquote” works just fine, and it seems to be the established way to go.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Mark Allen is a freelance copy editor based in Columbus, Ohio. Follow him on Twitter at @EditorMark. (In this article, he is speaking for Mignon, the person who says "unquote.")

About the Author

Mark Allen, Writing for Grammar Girl
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