Tag Archives: quotation marks

Quotation Marks, Part 6

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© Judi Birnberg   There must be a comma and quotation marks somewhere.

Did you know periods and commas always go inside quotation marks? Would I lie to you? (The Brits do the opposite, however.)

Here are a couple of examples:

Our teacher assigned us to read Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw.”

“The Turn of the Screw,” a short novel by Henry James, is considered a type of ghost story.

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Quotation Marks, Part 4: Quotes Within Quotes

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Sometimes you need to use both double and single quotation marks in one sentence. Remember, this is the American manner of punctuating. The British system is the opposite of ours: they use single quotes where we use doubles.

Here is an American example: Joginder stated, “My classics professor assigned the first 40 pages of ‘The Odyssey’ for our next meeting.”

Normally, you would put “The Odyssey” in double quotes, but because it is within a statement that needs double quotes, you use single quotes for the “inside” one.

Joginder may ask, “Did Seema really say, ‘Why would I date him after the rude comment he made to me?’ “

That is a quoted question within another quoted question. Both sets of quotation marks come at the end of the sentence. It’s important to leave a space between the single and double quotes. Singles always come inside doubles (in America).

You may quote me.

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Quotation Marks, Part 3

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If a person has a nickname commonly associated with the given name, don’t use quotation marks around the nickname. For example, just write James (Jim) Cooper. But when the nickname is unexpected, use the quotes: James “Hotshot” Cooper.

Yogi Berra’s given name was Lorenzo Pietro, later anglicized to Lawrence Peter. At some point he acquired the nickname “Yogi,” but before long no one remembered the Lawrence Peter part and he became Yogi without the quotation marks.

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When to Use Quotation Marks

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©Judi Birnberg  There Are Quotation Marks in Here Somewhere

Obviously, use quotation marks around the exact words (direct quotes) that someone spoke or wrote. Don’t go by what you see in ads: quotation marks are often used there to get your attention and for emphasis, but they are almost invariably used incorrectly. For instance:

EAT HERE! “Best hamburger in the universe!” Chances are, no one ever said those words  in quotes except possibly the mother of the cook.

If you are using an indirect quote, do not use quotation marks:

Rodney stated he had eaten the best hamburger in the world. 

Use quotation marks around song titles, names of TV shows, short poems, articles, and essays. Names of magazines, newspapers, and book titles are set in italics. Therefore, you would refer to The Atlantic and then to an article in the issue, “The Making of an Unexpected President.”

Newspapers have their own style guides, which seem to have adopted putting book and movie titles in initial capital letters, no quotation marks, no italics. Unless you are hired by a newspaper, use the rules I’m listing here.

I’ll cover more uses of quotation marks in my next few blog posts.

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Who Said That?

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Are you aware that almost every day you see one or more signs using quotation marks improperly?

“In business since 1979”

“Apple pie like your mom used to make”

“Call us for affordable repairs!”

“Free” delivery

No one ever said these things. They were made up to call attention to what the advertisers want you to remember.

Legitimate uses of quotation marks are when you are quoting the actual words someone else either said or wrote, or when you use a word knowing that your readers are aware you are being facetious or sarcastic.

For instance, if you write that your Aunt Edna is on a “strict” diet and then you go on to write that she eats strictly high-calorie foods, your readers understand your sarcasm. But in the last sign listed above, putting quotation marks around “free” seems to indicate that the delivery is, in fact, not free. It’s as if the company is poking you in the ribs and saying, “Ha! Not really.”

If you want to call attention to certain words, instead of quotation marks, you can use italics or boldface type. But please do this very sparingly.

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A Little More on Quotation Marks

Here are the traditional ways to write about various forms of media:

1. Book titles: italics

2. Book chapters that use words (but not Chapter 1, for example): quotation marks

2. Magazine titles: italics

3. Magazine articles: quotation marks

4. Song and movie titles: quotation marks

Here’s what happens when people go nuts with quotation marks, trying to emphasize ideas:enhanced-buzz-22370-1369830393-6

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Lose the Quotes!

Here’s a sentence in an email from a friend. What do you think of his use of quotation marks?

[Tom]  spent the summer in Buenos Aires doing a practicum with the poor, ensuring clean water is getting to their “shanty” homes.

If these people are poor and living in Buenos Aires, their homes are shanties. But the use of quotation marks indicates that they really aren’t. The word “shanty” is certainly not being quoted. Calling attention to a word by putting it in quotes is not an acceptable use.

• Use quotation marks around words actually spoken or written by someone.

• Use quotation marks when you are using a word in a manner that is not literal. For example, you could write that the previous American Embassy in Moscow was found to be full of “bugs.” Your reader will then know that you are not referring to cockroaches and that “bugs” is slang for listening devices.

Every day I see quotation marks misused. Painted on a plumber’s truck is information telling me he has been “in business since 1973.” No one ever said that. Misused quotation marks are a distraction. Don’t annoy your readers.

 

 

 

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