This debate has been raging for a long time, how long I’m not sure, but I’m here to keep it going.
What sign do you use to indicate speech? “ or ‘ ?
Many new writers, myself included, tend to use “. We were
taught in school that that was the sign to indicate dialogue. The other sign is
an apostrophe and could be used to quote something within dialogue and little
When I was learning to type and throughout my typing career I
was taught to use “ for quotes and dialogue. “ was over the 2 and ‘ was over
the 8 and both were simple straight quotes, none of this facing the letter it
was attached to.
Ah, but you be old
and went to school a long time ago.
Both facts are very true. BUT I asked my granddaughter (16)
what sort of quote marks she was told to use in her English lessons in this day
and age. After looking at me somewhat blankly she said “. So it’s not just the
people who were taught in the days of board rubbers and ink monitors who think
It has become the Established Publishing standard these days
to use a single quote (or an apostrophe) to denote dialogue. (By “Established
Publishing” I mean the big boys.) But
when did this happen and why?
I have trawled through old books I have and some use “ while
others use ‘. I recently read an ebook version of The Hobbit, which, according
to the notes had been taken from an early version. That had “ in yet, yet a
printed copy I have of The Lord of the Rings has ‘. So was this down to the publisher? And yet… I
have The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas
Hardy both Guild Publishing editions, printed by the same printers and
yet one uses “ and the other ‘. And one of the very first books I bought as an
adult, “Islands In The Stream” by Ernest
Hemingway and published in 1970 uses ‘.
Another weird thing I have noticed… I have a tablet with a
touchscreen keyboard. Very clever. It automatically shows capital letters after
you put in a full stop followed by a space. And with those capital letters it
gives you an option of “. Once you have started your sentence it goes to an ‘.
Sadly it doesn’t go back to “ until after you have put a space after the full
stop. As “ is only used for speech and nothing else, this begs the question,
why Microsoft think it is important but publishers don’t?
Is this important? Does anyone care? Well, you do get the
odd nose turned up when some people find the ‘wrong’ sort of quotes being used.
As if punctuation marks are more important than the words. And yet many of the
smaller publishing houses still use it.
I think using double quotes makes the dialogue more noticeable.
I’ve recently gone through a book with my editor’s hat on and found the story
brilliant, the typing perfect (and that takes a lot of hard work, even with
spell checkers) but sadly lots of speech marks missing. Now this particular
author was using the ‘industry standard’ single ‘. I wondered if he would have
missed so many when proof reading his work if he had used “ which stand out a
Me? I will stick to using old fashioned “ until I’m forced
kicking and screaming into using the apostrophe for speech.
Oh, and as an afterthought. I have a copy of “Eats, Shoots and
Leaves” by Lynne Truss. Wonderful book on punctuation. It was published in
2003. And all the way through it the good lady uses “ both for speech and
quotes. Maybe I should ask for her opinion?