Monday, June 23, 2014

Double, Single, Double

Now you may have read the title of this post and thought it has something to do with the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, but it doesn’t … although there has been an element of looking at one end of the court, watching the ball shoot to the other end, only to watch it return back in the other end of the court again. Let me explain. I’m talking quote, or speech marks.

Firstly, quote or speech marks are for what they say they’re for - quoting someone else’s words (either verbal, or written). If you want to emphasize a particular word then do it another way - such as in italics. (If you want to know how readers can mis-interpret speech marks around words people want to emphasize then take a look at this link: http://pulptastic.com/37-quotation-mark-fails/)

Regular fiction contributors to Woman’s Weekly have recently received new guidelines about quote marks. Before the recent change the style of Woman’s Weekly required single quote marks around dialogue, like so: ‘I need to say something,’ said Jane.

Now, this has changed to double quote marks, like so: “I need to say something,” said Jane.

Interestingly, according to the email from Woman’s Weekly, this is a return to their old style - hence my tennis court reference earlier: dialogue used to be in double quote marks, then it changed to single, and now it has gone back to double quote marks. 

However, Woman’s Weekly also want writers to use single quote marks for internal thought. This one is causing some interesting chatter, although, at the end of the day, it’s a straight forward matter … that’s what the editor wants, so that’s what the editor gets. Personally, I prefer to use italics to show internal thought … but from now on … in any story I write for Woman’s Weekly, the italics will go and the single quote marks come in.

Having two sets of quote marks can also be useful for non-fiction writers. Sometimes, an interviewee may quote someone else in their own dialogue, so having the two sets helps to differentiate this to the reader like so:

“I wasn’t particularly bothered about it,” said Fred Bloggs, “until my colleague came up to me and said, ‘have you heard the news?’ Then I realised I should be bothered about it.”

Can you see how I’ve used single quote marks around the colleague’s dialogue that sits within Fred Bloggs’ dialogue, which I’ve encapsulated in double quote marks? If a magazine prefers to use single quotes for dialogue, then we swap both sets of marks around - using single for the main quote and double for the colleague’s dialogue:

‘I wasn’t particularly bothered about it,’ said Fred Bloggs, ‘until my colleague came up to me and said, “have you heard the news?” Then I realised I should be bothered about it.’

In theory, if Fred’s colleague had then quoted yet another colleague within his dialogue, we’d continue alternating between single, double, and single quotes:

‘I wasn’t particularly bothered about it,’ said Fred Bloggs, ‘until my colleague came up to me and said, “Have you heard the news? Dave’s just said, ‘we’re up that creek without a paddle,’ and I agree.” Then I realised I should be bothered about it.’

Admittedly, that’s getting quite difficult to follow who said what, but it can be a useful system to follow!


In the meantime, “Good luck!” ;-)

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