I’ve been doing a lot of proofreading and grading recently, which means grammar is more and more the uppermost thing on my mind. Today, I will address two main misuses of quotation marks.
First, I would like to address the mistaken idea that you need to use quotation marks in order to make a phrase stand out. That’s what Italics are for, if the phrase really must stand out. Quotation marks are for (surprise!) quotations. And titles of articles or songs. That’s all. Every time I see them where they’re not needed, I picture that annoying person who speaks using the finger-hook quotation marks for every slang word he uses. It makes me want to break his fingers, and it makes me want to break your pen. Stop it.
Secondly, let’s talk about the hairy topic of quotation marks when it comes to punctuation. As a general rule, in American English, punctuation is included inside the quotation marks, but it’s only barely a general rule. Commas and periods are always included inside the quotation marks. Colons and semicolons should always be on the outside of the quotation marks, and things like question marks are situational and it depends on whether the thing being quoted is actually a question.
What book began, “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit”?
The sentence being quoted is not a question, so the question mark doesn’t go inside the quotation marks.
Thank you for joining me for today’s grammar rant.