The usage I've seen commonly is the following:

Guillemets: French
Doublequotes: French & English
Singlequotes: English

Is it worth codifying some sort of rule for which quotes you can use on the site?

L'usage que j'ai le plus souvent rencontré est le suivant :

Guillemets typographiques : français
Guillemets-apostrophe doubles : français et anglais
Guillemets-apostrophe simples : anglais

Doit-on établir une règle concernant le type de guillemets à utiliser sur ce site ?

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    Note that “double quotes” are not acceptable in French (except for nested quotes, and even that is debated). – Gilles 'SO nous est hostile' Aug 25 '11 at 19:58
  • @Gilles Go and tell that to LeMonde.fr or france24.fr. :-) – Jez Aug 25 '11 at 20:26
  • I've rolled a potentially useful userscript for this here:stackapps.com/questions/2569/… – Benjol Sep 9 '11 at 5:14
  • Please edit this question in a less subjective way. I don't think double quotes not being accepted in French is emphasized enough yet. Especially without an accepted answer here :/ – Nikana Reklawyks Oct 19 '12 at 6:18
  • For those who are interested, typography.area51 is now defined, and in need of commiters to enter beta. ❚ Pour ceux que ça intéresse, typography.area51 a fini de se définir, et a besoin que plus de monde s'y implique avant d'entrer en beta. – Nikana Reklawyks Dec 3 '12 at 5:37

The choice of quote mark is dictated by the surrounding language, independently of the quoted language. If the surrounding language is English, use English quotes: “double” or ‘single’. It is usual to use italiques for foreign words, though italics are also used to mark up words being discussed regardless of language.

Le choix de guillemets est dicté par la langue environnante, indépendamment de la langue citée. Si la langue environnante est le français, utiliser les « guillemets français ». Il est habituel d'utiliser des italics pour des mots étrangers, quoique les italiques puissent aussi marquer les mots sur lesquels porte le texte quelle que soit leur langue.


I'd like to add that double quotes are acceptable straight ("...") or curly (“...”). Granted, curly marks are the typographically correct ones, but I don't think it's really worth editing all the questions to transform straight marks into curly marks, which basically no one has on their keyboards and likely won't go to extra length to type. English Language & Usage has an automatic script which turns straight quotation marks into curly ones on the question title, but everyone uses regular straight marks in questions and answers alike. Are we pickier about English typography here on French Language than EL&U is itself?

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    Note: I sometimes change them (I'm not the only one), but I never edit a post just for that. There was very recent post where a " was improperly closed by a ', I fixed it and still it was not the only change I made. – Stéphane Gimenez Apr 18 '12 at 21:23
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    @StéphaneGimenez I know you're not the only one; I'm saying that's not a good thing. Both are acceptable, so whether or not you're already editing the post, you're not improving it by changing them; you're just changing someone else's style to your own. – Kareen May 2 '12 at 17:00

The usage I've seen commonly is the following:

Guillemets: French
Doublequotes: French & English
Singlequotes: English

So I'd propose the following rule:

When quoting in a sentence, you may use « guillemets » or "doublequotes" when the sentence is in French, and "doublequotes" or 'singlequotes' when the sentence is in English. However, whichever quotes are chosen, they must stay consistent throughout the sentence (don't switch from one to another!)

And yeah, I know that paragraph itself violates the "don't switch" rule. :-P

  • 2
    “Double quotes” aren't used in French, except sometimes for nested quotes, and even then using the same symbol (Il dit « elle a dit « bonjour » ») is more common. – Gilles 'SO nous est hostile' Apr 18 '12 at 21:18
  • Wrong. They are used in various contexts for regular quoting, in various publications, and liberally on the web (last time I checked, this is a web site). – Jez Apr 18 '12 at 21:19
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    -1 Open any printed book written in French, you will notice that French quotes in are used (surprising right?). It has always been difficult to write proper French on computers systems. Hopefully we can now type accentuated letters properly almost everywhere (and this is fairly recent, maybe it's been 5 years now). Now it's still difficult to use proper punctuation. In any case, I think we should encourage people that are willing to do so to replace non French quotation marks by French ones. – Stéphane Gimenez Apr 18 '12 at 21:20
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    Yay, so the purists have their say. Anyone else want to bother chiming in or shall we just get l'Adacémie to adjudicate on this one? @StéphaneGimenez Who cares about printed French books? This is the internet. Times change. Some people (even French ones) just prefer the look of doublequotes. Why should they be "encouraged" to change? – Jez Apr 18 '12 at 21:27
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    Double quotes are used in French as nested quotes, and single quotes should be used should there be another quote in there. I've never seen nested quotes using all guillemets. I however have no problem with "allowing" double quotes in French on this site. A lot of people will not be native speakers and they will not have a guillemet key like I do, and I would hate for FL&U to be considered elitist toward people who have different keyboards and understandably don't want to jump through additional hoops. – Kareen Apr 18 '12 at 21:43
  • @Kareen: Of course people post how is convenient for them, and many don't have easy access to «  », nor will make the effort to use them (but a copy/paste from the very next question isn't that hard, note…) That doesn't mean there isn't a correct way to quote in French (according to the Académie, I'm not entering the quebecan/belgian debate). I don't think you consider FL&U as elitist towards people who spell french correctly, for editors not to correct spelling mistakes ? – Nikana Reklawyks Oct 19 '12 at 6:24
  • @LeVieuxGildas What I'm saying is since we're going to have a lot of posts using double quotes, it would save a lot of edits and old post bumps if we let them slip. Even though they're not technically correct, I don't have a problem with them here. And I feel that's basically what Jez is proposing. – Kareen Oct 19 '12 at 15:11

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