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Posts Tagged ‘grammar and punctuation’

Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While

(Post Number Ten)

“The Quirky Quotation Marks”

“What can I say about quotation marks?” Marsha says. “If you are a fiction writer, you need to master the technique of using quotation marks. However, over the last few years, many publishing companies of nonfiction works have asked authors to incorporate ‘fiction’ techniques in their manuscript. That entails using quotation marks, mostly in dialogue, correctly.”

Of the many times I’ve seen quotation marks used incorrectly, the following example is the most misuse I’ve noticed:

Bad Example: Bert yelled to his son Raymond in the back yard, “Throw the ball, son”.

Folks tend to want to put that period AFTER the quotation marks at the end, but it is incorrect. The proper usage is as such:

Good Example One: Bert yelled to his son Raymond in the back yard, “Throw the ball, son.”

The same goes for the use of quotation marks with question marks and exclamation points:

Good Example Two: After lunch Eva asked her friend Bonnie, “Would you like to go shopping?”

Good Example Three: When Bobby saw his puppy fall off the sofa, he yelled, “Watch out, Scruffy!”

Another frequent abuse of quotation marks occurs in a series when words that need the marks are listed. The following example shows how the list should be correctly written:

Good Example Four: Last year, our writers’ conference featured workshops entitled “Write an Irresistible Query,” “Kiddie Lit for Toddlers,” and “It’s Time for an Agent.”

But what about double quotes in the same sentence? You might be thinking, How do I write them? Well, here’s how the CMOS says to use double quotes:

Good Example Five: Barney said to his cousin Elmo, “You must have heard cousin Heathcliffe say, ‘We’re going to the shore on Friday.’ ” (Note the period, the single quote, a space, and a double quote.)

I’m sure it is no surprise to you that there are exceptions to using quotation marks with other punctuation marks. The English language is one big exception, if you ask me!

Anyway, here are some examples of when the quotation marks go INSIDE the ending punctuation mark:

Example One: Harry subscribed to “The Pennsylvania Magazine”; he loves the pictures. (A work that needs quotes around its title)

Example Two: The sergeant asked Private Botting to state his “name and serial number”; he forgot his serial number and got in big trouble. (A phrase that is a direct quote)

Example Three: Which of Shakespeare’s characters said, “All the world’s a stage”? (A question asked with a quoted statement within it)

Example Four: Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3).  (The period follows the Bible reference.)

Example Five: I can’t believe Pauline said, “I’m leaving tomorrow at five in the morning”! (The exclamatory statement was made by “I” not “Pauline.” Therefore, the exclamation point comes AFTER Pauline’s quote.)

Example Six: How can teachers motivate students to learn who constantly say, “I hate school”? (The entire sentence is a question; therefore the question mark comes AFTER the quotation mark at the end.)

There are other uses of quotation marks and exceptions, but I’m thinking this blog is enough to confuse even the best writers in the land. If you have doubts, go online to the CMOS and check out your quotation mark question firsthand.

Next time we’ll look at perky parentheses and bold brackets, which will just about wrap up our series of blogs offering punctuation advice for writers. Then we’ll move on to another venue in the fascinating world of writing and publishing.

Happy writing!

Marsha

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On Writing: Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While

(Post Number Eight)

The Itinerant Italics

Are you a writer who used italics frequently? Or perhaps you’re not quite sure when to use this little punctuation perk? Such was the case with me until I did a little research and study to make sure I was using italics correctly.

I’m sure you’ll agree that the most common way to use italics is mostly in fiction when using Direct Internal Discourse.

What in the world is Direct Internal Discourse?

Oh, that’s the “formal” fancy term for expressing someone’s inner thoughts. This is the most frequent use of italics. So let’s look at some examples of that plus some examples of other uses for italics:

Direct Internal Discourse

Example One:  Bill looked at Susie and thought, Now’s the time to ask her to marry me.

Example Two:   That’s just the sweater I want!  Marge asked the clerk, “How much is that pullover cardigan?”

Exception: Do NOT italicize an inner thought that is indirect or paraphrased.

Example: Steve had been telling himself not to buy that car for the last week.

 Citing Sources

Although the AP Stylebook says to put all “composition” titles in quotation marks except the Bible and reference books, the CMOS prefers using italics for large titles:

Example One:  Gone With the Wind is one of the most powerful movies ever made.

Example Two:  One of my favorite books is The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans.

Example Three:  Have you subscribed to the Reader’s Digest again this year?

Exception: Smaller components of such works, such as articles, chapter titles,

song titles, poem titles, and episodes should be in quotation marks.

Example: Barry read an amazing article about chipmunks entitled “The Nuts’ Best Friend” in this month’s Pennsylvania Magazine.

Animal Noises, Sounds, Ringing Phones, Etc.

In fiction, words that depict sounds other than dialogue are written in italics:

Example One:   Woof! Woof! Barney, Pete’s dog, barked his head off!

Example Two:   S-q-u-e-a-k …. “Who’s there?” Angie screamed.

Example Three:  R-i-n-g …. Philip hurried to the front door, hoping he’d see Angie.

Foreign Words and Phrases

Unless you’re writing about Russian spies or Amish Ordnungs, this italics rule might mean little to you. However, whenever quoting foreign words or phrases, use italics. In the case of using the foreign words in fiction, they are usually italicized the first time as an introduction but are not italicized throughout the novel.

Example One:  Henrietta’s German mother taught her to say ich liebe dich, (I love you), which helped Henrietta express her true feelings.

Example Two: In her Amish Ordnung, Ruth was the only alt maedel over twenty-five years who wasn’t married yet. 

Italics for Emphasis

Often, in trying to express emphasis, writers will mistakenly use quotation marks instead of italics in a sentence. However, the italics is the proper way to go to express emphasis in a sentence:

Example One:  Fritz made a very conscious effort to go on a diet this time.

Example Two:  “Are you really going to drive toFlorida by yourself?” Harry asked Bob.

Quoting a Word or Phrase

This use of the italics is probably most used in nonfiction. When citing words or discussing phrases, italicize the word or phrase in discussion:

Example One:  The use of the word salvation in many of our traditional hymns has a powerful message.

Example Two:  The shed blood of Jesus is one of the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith.

So, there you have the most common uses of the italics. Take a look at your own writings, see if you can incorporate a few italics here and there, and give your manuscript a little extra spice. As long as italics are not overused, this little punctuation perk can add some life to your work. So go for it.

Next time we’ll look at the exclamation point! This little jot and tittle is probably one of the most misused punctuation marks in the English language!

Happy writing!

Marsha

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