Copy Corner: Quotation Marks
Plagiarism. The P-word. The one you’ve heard ever since you started writing papers based on any bit of research, whether it was a peer-reviewed article about a study on different shoelace lengths or the second source listed in a Wikipedia article. In either case, one can get in a messy situation if the sources aren’t cited properly.
In journalism, citing sources goes hand in hand with finding sources of information. Journalistic integrity is at stake, and a libel charge is definitely at the worst end of the spectrum when it comes to improper citation.
Good quotes are like blueberry muffins, though — you can never have too many of them. Unless, of course, the entire piece is full of quotes. But properly utilized, quotes give a piece a truth and legitimacy. No one can call your bluff if you have a quote to use as a shield of truth.
So, how to go about wielding this fearsome utility? Like any weapon or nuance of language, constant practice is important to making sure it is used properly within the set of rules that is grammar.
A word of warning — this look at quotations is within the context of Associated Press (AP) style as opposed to what most of us are used to in MLA style. Reporters and editors in the news industry rely on AP style for grammar and punctuation, and there are differences when compared to MLA style. It’s like comparing apples to oranges; both are delicious in their own way.
Here are the guidelines for open-quote marks (“) and close-quote marks (”).
You should all remember the basics; for direct quotations, surround the exact words of a speaker or writer along with the accompanying punctuation.
“No buttered scones for me,” he said. “I’m off to play my grand piano.”
“[Hillary Clinton] can’t stop drunk texting me from Cartagena,” President Obama said at this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner.
Also, avoid quoting unnecessary, normal fragments. It’s like hanging out with that one annoying person you know who always does the finger quotation marks around any bland phrase.
Andrew Bynum said he was “trying very hard” to get the NBA playoffs blocks record.
Compare that to: Andrew Bynum said he was trying very hard to get the NBA playoffs blocks record, “swinging at everything” that came his way.
Quotation marks are also the way to go for composition titles. The rules get a bit different, and a bit confusing if you’re used to MLA style, when it comes to titles that include those of books, movies, games, albums, poems, songs, radio and television programs, lectures, speeches and works of art.
AP style removes italics completely from the picture. Instead, for all of those examples listed above, put quotation marks around the names of all these works. The only exceptions to this rule are the Bible and books that are mostly reference material, like dictionaries, almanacs and encyclopedias. These you just leave alone.
For example: I read “The Hunger Games” for the umpteenth time while listening to Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat Major.” I then spent time reading the latest edition of Encyclopedia Britannica.
Software programs also don’t receive the quotation mark treatment: My computer can run Microsoft Word well, but it has issues running “Roller Coaster Tycoon.”
As you may have noted, all punctuation goes inside the quotation marks.
Quotation marks are another aspect of a set of rules that takes the most minute detail into consideration. In the well-oiled machine with nano-size parts that is AP-style language, the rules regarding quotes are a bit annoying, but they are integral to the structure and composition of journalism.