[bksvol-discuss] Re: single and double quotes

  • From: talmage@xxxxxxxxxx
  • To: bksvol-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 04 Feb 2005 12:46:51 -0500

The following passages, dealing with quotation marks, were extracted from:
Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The
Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Lynne Truss

The book is in the Bookshare library, and it's an interesting read.

Until the beginning of the 18th century, quotation
marks were used in England only to call attention to
  sententious remarks. Then in 1714 someone had the
idea of using them to denote direct speech, and by the
time of the first edition of Henry Fielding's Tom
Jones in 1749, inverted commas were used by printers
both to contain the speech and to indicate in a general,
left-hand marginal way that there was speech going on.
  Since the 18th century we have standardized the use
of quotation marks -- but only up to a point.
Readers are obliged to get used to the idea from an
  early age that "Double or single?" is a question not
applicable only to beds, tennis and cream. We
see both double and single quotation marks every day,
assimilate both, and try not to think about it. Having
been trained to use double quotation marks for speech,
however, with single quotations for
quotations-within-quotations, I grieve to see the
rule applied the other way round.
when single quotes serve both
functions, you lose this distinction. Also, with the poor
apostrophe already confusing people so much, a sentence that
begins with a single quote and contains an apostrophe
after three or four words is quite confusing
typographically, because you automatically assume the
apostrophe is the closing quotation mark:
  "I was at Still Thomas" Hospital," she
  There is, too, a gulf between American usage
and our own, with Americans always using double
quotation marks and American grammarians insisting
that, if a sentence ends with a phrase in inverted
  commas, all the terminal punctuation for the sentence
must come tidily inside the speech marks, even when
this doesn't seem to make sense.

At 06:54 PM 2/3/2005, you wrote:
I suspect British books just use two apostrophes otherwise known as single
quotes, but I'm only guessing, so don't rely on my theories.  I can't
remember finding a quote within a quote in any of the books I have looked at
with apostrophes instead of quotes.

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