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So I have a quote that has double quotation marks inside it. Would I leave those in? Or replace them with single quotes?

In Carolyn Gregoire’s article “What Your 'Life Story' Really Says About You”, she points out that “studies have found that "realistic optimists" . . . may be happier and more successful that strict optimists or pessimists.”

In this case, the phrase "realistic optimists" is in the source within quotes, and the rest of that is just a quote of the source. Note that the "realistic optimists" part is still the same person talking, per se, with quotes around it because it's strange language (I presume).

If there's something MLA has to say about this, I'd be happy to know. Otherwise, just best practice?

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    why would MLA violate standard typesetting rules? In American English, quoted material nested inside double quotes uses single quotes. (In British English it's the reverse: single quotes on the outside, double on the inside.) – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Feb 10 '17 at 15:34
  • Even if the original quote uses double quotes? – Cullub Feb 10 '17 at 17:12
  • Yes. Everyone who reads it will understand that the nested material was in double quotes in the original. It's extremely common. In fact, if you left in the double quotes, most people would get confused. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Feb 10 '17 at 17:57
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Why would MLA violate standard typesetting rules? In American English, quoted material nested inside double quotes uses single quotes. (In British English it's the reverse: single quotes on the outside, double on the inside.)

In Carolyn Gregoire’s article “What Your 'Life Story' Really Says About You,” she points out that “studies have found that 'realistic optimists'...may be happier and more successful that strict optimists or pessimists.”

In both cases (please note the nested single quotes in the article name), the single quotes are understood to be material which was in double quotes in the original.

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  • Except that the title had single quotes in the original – Cullub Feb 10 '17 at 19:25
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    @cullub 1) Where was the original article printed or posted? If it was in the U.S., the single quotes may be an artifact of that publication's house style. The words should be in double quotes in the original. 2) Typical typographical convention for citing an article is to put the article's name in double quotes. Anything which was in double quotes in the article name would then be reproduced in single quotes, because it's nested. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Feb 10 '17 at 19:36
  • The Atlantic. Ok, that makes sense. – Cullub Feb 10 '17 at 19:39
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Ditto Lauren Ipsum. Let me just add that my copy of MLA, Fourth Edition, 1995, says on page 91, section 2.7.7, "Use double quotation marks around quotations incorporated into the text, single quotation marks around quotations within those quotations. ... Except for changing internal double quotation marks to single ones when you incorporate quotations into your text, you should reproduce internal punctuation exactly as in the original."

That is, MLA agrees with Lauren Ipsum. (They probably copied from her.)

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