Re: Single vs double quotes?

Subject: Re: Single vs double quotes?
From: Grail <talthane -at- mac -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2002 16:18:22 +0100

I'm not convinced that this generalisation is the case (about which side of the Atlantic uses which quotes). Certainly 'respected' news sites such as the Times and the BBC ( quote statements by starting and ending with double quotes. Most fiction books that are stored in my desk at work at the moment have lines of dialogue that use double quotes at the start and end, sometimes with single quotes in between the two. When I'm proofreading something, I would instinctively 'correct' a quotation that worked the opposite way round.

I think the difference lies in whether you're quoting speech or not. I'd suggest British English generally uses double quotes for speech ("Let's go to the beach," Jane suggested) but single quotes for things like scare quotes ('respected' news sites).

The way Geoff describes might have been the way British English worked in olden days, of course - I can't speak for that.

But then, I was told - by a woman from Alabama, so anyone who wants to make Deep South jokes can have a field day now - that American English writers place punctuation marks outside of the quotation marks (Let's go to the beach", Jane suggested) . In British English, that's regarded as completely wrong. (So is the American English practice of including an entire sentence in brackets, like this.)

Best not to assume what one side of the Atlantic does if you're living on the other, in my view.

Incidentally, Russian uses the chevron symbols too, but possessives don't use apostrophes.


Hart, Geoff wrote:

David O'Brien reports: <<I've always considered singles to be either
apostrophes, possessives, or used in cases where doubles are already used,
eg., quotes with speech, etc. I wouldn't, for example, consider singles as
'normal'. I would, however, consider doubles as "normal".>>

I can tell which side of the Atlantic you're on simply from how you phrased
that question. <g> British works most often start with singles, then use
double quotes inside the singles if required; North Americans reverse that
order. Both use single quotes as apostrophes and possessives. And the
French? They use chevrons instead (<< and >>, only special characters rather
than less than and greater than signs), along the American line, and don't
form possessives with an apostrophe.

Most varieties of English also use what are sometimes called "scare" quotes
(as I just did) to make a word stand out. Sometimes that's the author's way
of saying that the word is being used as some group uses it (as I just did
in quoting those who call this practice "scare" quotes); sometimes it's a
clue that the word is being used in a different context than its usual
grammatical role (e.g., in this example, the "the" in quotes is being used
as a noun, not an article).

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

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Single vs double quotes?: From: Hart, Geoff

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