1. PencilJockey
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    PencilJockey Senior Member

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    Overusing ' '

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by PencilJockey, Nov 11, 2006.

    I've been writing poetry ever since I was 15 and have only dabbled in short stories. That being said I'm completely ignorant of a lot of short story or novel grammar usage.

    For instance I never use the quotation marks in poetry. When I go to write I feel as if I'm misuing them. An example would be this sentence I put in a post:

    My bf and I have had that 'what would you do if zombies attacked?' conversation so many times!

    Can someone direct me to a good, clear website on the proper usage of the single quotation mark? I feel as if I'm that person that walks around annoying people making quotation marks with their fingers. The difference of course being you can't see what I'm doing. :)
     
  2. zerobytes
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    zerobytes Contributing Member

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  3. PencilJockey
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    PencilJockey Senior Member

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    Thank you! :)
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    huh???

    sorry, but in american usage, the single is used only for interior quotes [quote within a quote]... in british usage, it's reversed... singles go outside and doubles inside...

    a verbatim quote must have " " around it and a parpaphrase [not verbatim] has nothing around it, as it's just a normal sentence of narrative...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  5. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    Gogo British usage! Even though most are taught to use " " now, anyways. Because American is bigger and scarier and there Mc Donalds cost more.

    - FoY
     
  6. cj_26
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    cj_26 New Member

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    Pretty sure there is no such thing as "single quotes" in any dialect of English. ' ' are apostrophes that one may use as quotes colloquially but I wouldn't use them in professional writing. In the above sentance you just say
     
  7. CuteMachines
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    CuteMachines New Member

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    Interesting post, that clears that up i was always a little unsure.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In British usage, single quotes appear to be acceptable for dialog, but the style guides I have seen specifically for the UK all prefer double quotes for the outer level, with single quotes used for quoted material with a quote:

    Based on this, I would consider the use of single quotes for primary quotations obsolescent, even in writing for a target audience in the UK. I don't believe you can do wrong sticking with double quotes for primary quotations.

    Also, there is such a thing as single quotes. Normal ASCII does not distinguish between the starting and ending quotes with the apostrophe mark, but Unicode does indeed render them differently. You will see this if you look closely at the character codes inserted by word processing programs like Microsoft Word.
     
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  9. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    The only time I have ever seen them used is when a person being quoted, as in dialog, quotes someone else, as in:

    Billy asked, "is it really true that Abe Lincoln wrote 'Four score and seven years?'"
     
  10. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    No, because first I need to understand what dialect you're speaking.

    The majority of English speakers only have guidelines about single quotation marks and tend to use single quotes fairly extensively, particularly in dialogue. Americans do like to be different, so they have a set of rules that only apply to them (such as Webster's dictionary and Strunk & White, which are gospel in the US and toilet paper everywhere else).

    The issue is made more complicated by the fact that few of the websites are clear about which dialect they concern. In a perfect world, you'd get disclaimers like "This only applies to US citizens" on American websites and "Not for use in the US" on British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, South African, Indian and... well, you get the idea.

    Because there aren't such disclaimers, many people fail to understand the extent to which this is localised.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have never seen any punctuation guide indicate the use of single quotes for non-verbatim quotations, also known as paraphrasing. You don't use any form of quotation marks for paraphrasing, but you do acknowledge whose statement you are presenting:
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, I have looked up this very issue on more than one style guide for a UK audience, and they too have codified the same quotation mark rules as those taught in American writing guides. The fact that single quotes are often used for top level quotations in much of the literature produced in the UK and other English speaking countries appears more a matter of leniency among publishers than a differing standard. There may also be a historical shift in punctuation rules.

    I do take some exception to the statement, "Americans do like to be different." I readily acknowledge that there are locale-specific difference in spelling and punctuation, and I try to keep those in mind when reviewing. But where there are differences, I have to go by what I can find from authoritative sources. I won't use existing literature as proof, any more than I would use a news anchor's quotations to illustrate grammar rules.
     
  13. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    Well, I think there's a cultural difference here.

    I find it interesting that the Brits accepted the loss of all gun ownership rights with scarcely a murmur, but they'll fight like hellcats against any form of prescriptive grammar. Americans won't tolerate infringement of their right to own a firearm, but they'll cheerfully submit to Strunk & White. :)

    I think the result is that the US has prescriptive style guides--"This is how it shall and must be"--but Commonwealth English has nebulous guidelines and various attempts to describe (rather than impose) ways of writing.

    So in some respects the US dialect has sort of "frozen", if you understand that. They still use forms that, to the Commonwealth speaker's ear, are archaic (such as the "z" in words like "civilised" or "ostracised", or the Shakespearean form "gotten", which many Commonwealth English speakers struggle to understand, even though they can use "forgot" and "forgotten"--exactly the same rule--with complete accuracy).

    US English was also partly modified by the redoubtable Mr Webster's views on standardised spelling. So for example, they dropped the "u" from "colour", "armour", "valour", etc. and reversed the "re" in forms like "centre". (I'm very pleased that Mr Webster's preference for more extreme simplifications such as "tho" and "thru" never quite caught on!)

    But because Commonwealth English doesn't have prescriptive forms, it's a bit more fluid. We can still say "civilized", and when I was growing up, that was how the word was spelled, but nowadays "civilised" is what naturally flows off my fingers.

    I genuinely don't think there are "correct" forms for Commonwealth English in the same way as there are with US English.
     
  14. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    That is a good point Weaselword. I've also seen "artistic books" where the quote is set off by an M dash. I actually like the way it looks.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The M dash quotation style seems to be largely a French convention, from what I've been able to determine, and is most likely to be seen in English language in a work that has been translated from French.
     
  16. Weaselword
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    Weaselword Banned

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    James Joyce was famous for doing that.
     
  17. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I'd have to agree with this. The transation of Madam Bovary which I'm studying at the moment uses it ad nauseum. It's difficult to get your head around when you're not used to it.
     

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