Monday, June 16, 2014

The Quirky Quotation

By Andrea Merrell

In my last post, we talked about the overuse of exclamation points and the need to eliminate them from our manuscripts unless absolutely necessary. But what about quotation marks?

Most writers have their own personal set of bad habits, especially when it comes to punctuation. While some tend to forget that punctuation is even a requirement, others use overkill which makes the reader want to get out the Liquid Paper and erase all those unnecessary marks.   

To get another professional’s opinion, let’s look at a portion of literary agent Chip McGregor’s blog post, What Drives an Editor Crazy?

Occasionally you’ll find “authors” who feel a “need” to put any emphasized words in “quotes,” since they think it makes them look “official.” This is particularly tiresome when a “funny” author decides to put his “punch line” in quotations. An “idea” – cut the quotation marks.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab ( says: “The primary function of quotation marks is to set off and represent exact language (either spoken or written) that has come from somebody else.” Therefore, quotation marks are always used in dialogue and when giving a direct quote (unless you are using italics or block quotes), but not to draw attention to a bevy of words. The best way to emphasize a word is to use italics, but don’t overdo it. This is another area where you need to trust your reader to get it.

There are rules about using other forms of punctuation with quotation marks. You can use the CMOS, CWMS, Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide (formerly Polishing the PUGS, or online sources such as: and Allow Google to become your best friend.

Next time we will talk about redundant words and phrases, and writing tight. For now, I would love to hear your thoughts on quotation marks.

(Photos courtesy of and

Katy Kauffman is the winner of Edie Melson's book. Katy, please send Alycia your mailing address at alywmorales (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks!


  1. What is the link for Chip's blog post? I was surprised you didn't include it.

    1. Natalie, I am sooo sorry. I should have included the link. The post is: What Drives an Editor Crazy, dated February 10, 2014. The link is Thanks so much for stopping by.


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