Maybe I’m not “the norm.” I’m not “camera friendly.” I’m not a “heartbreaker.” I’m not “hygenic.” I don’t “wipe properly.” Chris Farley fans will remember these highlights from his “finger quotes” schtick bitterly comparing himself to a handsome news anchor. The 1993 bit simultaneously ridiculed the rampant use of unnecessary quotation marks, and we might have hoped it would discourage the worst offenders. But offenders remain so numerous today that there’s a blog devoted to them — Enjoy the humor, then clean up your act, “people.”

DO use quotation marks to:

  • Set off an actual quotation.
  • Mark the titles of shorter works, such as songs, short stories, poems and TV episode titles. (Longer works — albums, books, movies and TV series — get italicized).
  • Alert the reader that some snarkiness is afoot. Example: Her “get in shape plan” consisted of substituting cigarettes for food.

DON’T use quotation marks to:

  • Highlight familiar slang. Your reader will wonder if you are being serious or not. Example: Susan Boyle is “cool.”
  • Make a word stand out. It can cloud the word with doubt. Example: Happy Birthday “Dad.”

Furthermore – don’t be fooled by the fact that quote marks and inch marks occupy the same key on your keyboard. They are not the same, nor are they interchangeable. Quote marks embrace the exact words that a person has spoken or written, or sets off words that form a title. Inch marks follows a numeral and signifies an exact measurement. The double lines in quote marks will have a curl, hook or slant to them. The double lines in inch marks are vertical and straight.

  • Make sure quote marks is the default by editing Preferences in your page layout program. In QuarkXPress, the path from Preferences is > Application > Input Settings, then check Smart Quotes. In InDesign: > Text, then check Use Typographer’s Quotes.
  • Override the default when you need an inch mark. On a Mac, hold down the Control and Shift keys as you type the mark. On a PC, it’s Control and Alt. An alternative is to spell out inches or use the abbreviation (in.).

Need help with your writing? Call Kim Landry at 484-829-0021 or email [email protected].

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