Tag Archives: quoted material

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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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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