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1:11pm on Friday, 18th December, 2015:

Quotation Marks


I knew that for my up-coming books the way that I use quotation marks would be changed to fit American English practice. However, they were always going to be changed, as they don't fit British English practice either. This is because I use them like I would in a program.

First, I always use double quotes. Traditional British English uses single quotes, but those clash with apostrophes. I'll use single quotes if I need to nest quotes, and alternate with double quotes for further nesting.

If I'm writing a piece of straight dialogue, I'll put it all in quotes, no problem:
"Is that mine?"
"No, it's mine."

If the quoted text is part of a larger sentence, though, I treat the contents of the quote independently of the larger sentence:
"Is that mine?", she asked.
He replied, "No, it's mine.".

If the quoted text is broken at a comma that's only there to indicate a pause, I'll drop it in deference to a comma outside the quotes:
"Is that mine?", she asked.
"No", he replied, "it's mine."

Exception: if I'm quoting someone's exact words (or an exact translation thereof) and break the sentence at a comma, I will use it:
Descartes said "I think,", from which he deduced "therefore I exist.".

As for commas or other punctuation before the quotes, I'll use it for dialogue but not for direct quotations unless it's needed for some other reason:
Descartes had a good answer for his critics: "I think, therefore I am.".

That's pretty well how I do quotes. This system can easily handle sentences such as:
Who asked, "Is that mine?"?
Who replied, "No, it's mine."?

I'd like to call this approach "programmer quotes", however I do make one concession that a program wouldn't — I'll capitalise the start of a sentence:
"Lose" is too-often mis-spelled as "loose".

Maybe I should bite the bullet and just go flat-out logical. I'll be able to annoy even more people that way.

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Copyright © 2015 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).