The Grammarphobia Blog

Quotes of many colors

Q: I’m puzzled by the way you use quotation marks/inverted commas on your blog. I thought they were only used for speech and longer quotations, but you use them in other ways.

A: No, quotation marks are not used solely for speech and other quotations. And the quotations don’t have to be long.

They can also set off words referred to as words (“restaurateur,” for example).

The convention with words used as words is to enclose them in quotation marks or to use italics, and we’ve chosen the former, which is newspaper style.

We’ll quote The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.), section 7.58: “When a word or term is not used functionally but is referred to as the word or term itself, it is either italicized or enclosed in quotation marks.”

Here’s an example given in this same section: Many people say “I” even when “me” would be more correct.

In addition, we use quotation marks when we make up examples that illustrate our points (“with Trixie and me,” not “with Trixie and I”).

This is a common practice and helps in readability. Otherwise, it can be unclear where an example ends and regular text begins.

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