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Is that a "Quote"?

by Cherie Tucker

Writers know that in dialogue, you start a new paragraph for each new speaker, and that a long-winded speaker who insists on talking in more than one paragraph doesn’t get an end quote until he’s finished.

“Really?” she asked.

“Yes, really.  And that’s not all.  After she said that, she turned and spat at him.  I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears.  And the things they said to each other in front of that that poor child.  It was dreadful.  I rose to leave, but they insisted I remain.

“Fortunately someone rang the doorbell, and I rushed to answer it.”
 
Writers also know that there must be single quotes around quotations within quotations:            

“I just love Roethke’s poem, ‘My Papa’s Waltz.’”
 
Some writers tend to argue over where the punctuation is placed with quotation marks. The American style says that all commas and periods go within the final quote.  Always. The British put them inside or out, depending on whether they consider the quotation the end of the sentence or the end of the quote.
 
            American:  Go out the door marked “Private.”
            British:       Go out the door marked “Private”.
 
Those are the easy rules, but the use of quotation marks for emphasis when they are not required is a dangerous trend currently.  Bethany Keely has turned her delightful blog, the “blog” of “unnecessary” quotes, into an absolutely hilarious book.  People send her pictures of outrageous quotation usage, such as, “Jesus” saves, “Fresh” fish, or her latest sample:

“We”
also have other
“Movie’s available”
Ask Salesperson
For What’s
“Available”!! 

When you stop laughing, you will realize that quotation marks don’t work for emphasis, and they don’t belong around familiar colloquial expressions or nouns, as in “We need to hire a temp,” or “They went belly-up.”  They are familiar; they don’t need to be quoted.
 
You might be tempted to use quotes to signal irony or humor (Well, that was “fun.”) when you fear your reader won’t get your meaning.  For people whose sense of humor you’re not sure of, it’s best not to attempt subtleties. The “trick” is to “save” quotation marks for when they are “necessary.”
 

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Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.  She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits as well.  GrammarWorks@msn.com
 

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