Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Pet Peeve -- Quote Marks vs Italics

First, let me say how happy I am to be a member of the Make Mine Mystery team. There is a wealth of talent here, and I feel fortunate to be part of the group. Hopefully, I'll not embarrass myself too much with my posts.
Yes, I'll be letting you know how my writing career is going, but beyond that, I'll be writing about some of the things I've learned through the school of hard knocks. A lifetime of reading, almost twenty years of writing, and varied experiences in editing have given me perspectives on the business I enjoy.
One of these is the use of quotation marks when italics are appropriate. (Note, I said appropriate, not required.) Too often, as I edit, I see people use either single or double quote marks when trying to emphasize. It may be a title, the words contained in a note, a foreign word or phrase, or simply a hard hit on a word in dialogue.
He whistled the song, "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" should be, He whistled the song, Love is a Many Splendored Thing. Same with book titles or poems. "The Old Man and The Sea" should be The Old Man and The Sea.
The note read "Meet me in the garden at eight o'clock" works better as, The note read Meet me in the garden at eight o'clock. Unless you have a note that can actually read.
"Prenez-moi a votre chef" sure works better as Prenez-vous a votre chef in dialogue or out.
"Get 'out' of here" is better written as "Get out of here." Emphasis on out, of course.
In other words, whenever you're tempted to throw in that extra set of quote marks for some purpose other than dialogue, think italics instead. Then, if you select me as your editor, I'll be a happy camper. Happy camper? Maybe my next entry should be on cliches. :-)
If you find any of the above in my latest, THORNS ON ROSES, a South Florida thriller, I owe you a Killian's. It (the book, not the beer) is available as an ebook or a paper book.


Morgan Mandel said...

Welcome to Make Mine Mystery, Randy. You are far too modest. You obviously know what you're doing. I look forward to you sharing tidbits with our readers.

Morgan Mandel

cncbooks said...

Randy, you may not approve when you visit Buried Under Books (sending you an email)---I use underlining for book titles, quotation marks for short stories and song titles and italics for magazine titles. Will you be able to stand it? ;)

Lelia Taylor

Randy Rawls said...

Oh, my, Lelia. You are throwing me a challenge. You are following the proper rules of grammar, as they were taught to me so many years ago. Alas, those rules have been usurped by ... well, by the modern day.
I still say, quote marks for dialogue. Italics for other.
I'm looking forward to receiving your email.

cncbooks said...

That's what I get for being an old, decrepit hag of a woman who grew up in the last century ;) Fie on this modern day!


Jean Henry Mead said...

I still enclose song and film titles, article and short story titles in quotation marks. When did the rules change? :)

Earl Staggs said...

I know I've gotten these wrong before. From now on, I'll follow the Rules of Randy. Thanks.

And good to see you here.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

You make a lot of sense, Randy. I'll be doing that from now on too. Being old, I followed the old grammar rules too--at least most of the time.

Glad to have you joining us. It was great to see you at Killer Nashville.


Randy Rawls said...

I firt noticed this change taking place with book titles. I learned way, way back to underline them. Yet, when I read them in fiction, they were italicized. So, I got curious. Yep, song titles, poem titles, movies, all in italics rather than quote marks. Text of notes, such as a ransom note -- italics. Finally, it sunk in that quote marks are wonderful for dialogue and for dialogue within dialogue, but not so great for other things. Thus I built a soapbox and climbed up.

Anonymous said...

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, song titles are always in quotes.

Deborah Sharp said...

Hey, Randy ... welcome to the wide world of blogging! What really gets complicated is when song titles (which indeed should be contained within double quotes, according to Chicago Manual of Style AND my copy editor at Midnight Ink!) are then spoken by someone in dialogue ... aaargh!
Thanks for a fun, informative post.

Randy Rawls said...

The last time I looked, and I admit that's been awhile, the Chicago Manual of Style did not have a section on Fiction. And Deb, I undertand, why you rely on it, being an almost cured journalist. :-)

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