Back on August 15th of this year I happened to notice this wonderful little slice of literary criticism in the funnies. It isn’t the first time I’ve read these short quips on proper grammar, phrasing and punctuation of the English language on this delightful strip but this one hit on a subject which has inspired me to expound on just a few of my pet peeves concerning writing.
Faulty usage of quotation marks is just the tip of the iceberg on my long list but let’s get started with that anyway. Listen up:
Quotation marks seem to be a whimsical sarcasm tool currently but in a professional format their use is quite specific. They are the only way to distinguish somebody else’s words rather than our own in a sentence but there is a right and wrong way to employ them. The only proper use is placed with a comma preceding the quotation mark and closed with a comma preceding the closing quotation mark when inserted within a sentence. When the quote is used at the end of a sentence then a period precedes the closing quotation mark . They are the indicators of a direct quotation of someone else and not a single word emphasis of your own or the person you are quoting. I wish to further state that a single word does not constitute a quote.
Any other application of quotation marks is a violation of their proper use. If a person wishes to emphasize a word, it may be best to italicize or underline when italics are not available. To use quotation marks in emphasis when chiding your own use of a hackneyed word or phrase is inexcusable and as far as I’m concerned, ought to be punishable by law !
While we’re on the subject of writing, if I may go on, my other pet peeve is rampant exploitation of the phrases sort of and kind of. Worst of all, would of, could of and should of gets my hair curled in a knot. The first two are the snakes-in-the-grass among the qualifiers which no one seems to be aware of inside or outside the literary world. Not only do qualifiers punch holes in any good narrative but they are stumbling blocks as bad as any four-letter word laid claim to or played as a substitute for a good noun. The last three just simply don’t exist. These phrases should be written as would’ve, could’ve or should’ve but as I stated already, these qualifiers should be avoided as much as possible by a serious writer, outside of use in dialogue.
If you are serious about writing the English language as a profession may I suggest that you obtain copies of two reference books? The first is The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. While the rest of the world is sitting back and telling themselves that writing is just typing, you can be at the business of proving them wrong.
The Castle Lady
proving excellence one kiss at a time !