Thursday, March 29, 2012

You put that comma where?

Many people get confused about where the punctuation goes when there’s a quote inside a quote— “Yesterday I read Sara Paretsky’s book, ‘Tunnel Vision’,” she said.
One solution would be to put the book title in italics instead of inside quotes. Book titles, longer musical works, paintings, the names of ships, all can be written in italics instead of quotation marks. But let’s assume you want to learn how to get it right, so read on.
The main quote is always completely inside the double quotation marks. So the comma, full stop (period), exclamation point or whatever, is INSIDE the final quotation mark. And while I’m mentioning exclamation points, please note, one is enough. If the person is really excited, indicate that by their words and body language, not by using ten exclamation points.
Any punctuation related to the book title or stuff inside the interior quotation marks is AFTER the quotes. Secondary quotation marks only encompass what is said or referred to, not added punctuation.
“I was talking to John about Sara Paretsky’s book and he said, ‘I’ve read it too’”.
While we’re talking about quotation marks, notice the way they face. They always curve toward the thing they’re talking about. Sometimes Word is unhelpful and you need to fix them yourself. When they’re at the start of a word, indicating a missing letter, they face that invisible letter because that’s what they relate too. In this case Word almost always has them wrong and you have to change them. eg ’tis, ’til, etc. When you have an apostrophe in a regular contraction eg we’re, the apostrophe replaces the “a” (we are) so that’s the way it faces, toward the missing letter. So if you have a speaker who drops their aitches the same rule applies: “’Appy birthday ’Enry.”

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

No comments: