Posted by: Jack Henry | October 3, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Single Quotation Marks

Good morning, and welcome to a brand new week!

An interested reader asked me about single quotation marks (‘/’). He noticed that people seem to use them for the same purpose as double quotation marks (“/”) and asked me if they were interchangeable.

Maybe some of you have the same question, and I am ready to give you a definitive answer: No!

Single quotation marks and double quotation marks serve unique purposes.

Double quotation marks are more common; we use them for the following reasons:

· For direct quotations

· For the titles of short stories, short poems, titles of articles, essays, chapters of books, songs, and episodes of TV shows or radio programs

· To highlight technical terms, slang, or other expressions that are not considered normal usage (note: in cases like these, quotation marks are often overused and can be distracting—so be careful)

· To draw attention to a word or phrase to point out that it is inaccurate or absurd (scare quotes)

Single quotation marks, on the other hand, have one main purpose: they are used when you have a quotation within a quotation. Here’s an example:

“The man yelled, ‘Get out of my way!’ and then he pushed past me, and I fell down the stairs,” Janet explained to the hotel manager.

The previous example is a statement that Janet gives to the hotel manager, and she is also quoting something someone else said (Get out of my way!). That gives you a quotation inside a quotation.

Now, earlier, I said that single quotations have one main purpose. There are several other occupation-specific reasons for using single quotation marks, but they don’t really pertain to most of us:

· The Associated Press (AP) uses them In headlines

· Certain disciplines (philosophy, linguistics, theology) use them to highlight words with special meaning

Since most of us don’t follow the AP Style Guide and we rarely write about philosophy, linguistics, or theology in our documentation, your take-away today is this: unless you’re providing a quote within a quote, you will typically use double quotation marks.

Enjoy your day!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Technical Publications Writing and Editing Requests

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