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Conveying Emphasis
Posted: 29 October 2007 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Interesting article from the New York Sun by John McWhorter. A couple of extracts:

Walking the streets of New York , nothing cheers me up like signs written under the impression that quotation marks convey emphasis. One of my favorites is a cleaners that advertises its “FREE PICK UP AND DELIVERY” as if there’s something hypothetical about the service.

Or, another shop has “DROP OFF YOUR LAUNDRY ON YOUR WAY TO WORK, ‘PICK IT UP ON YOUR WAY BACK HOME.’” Then there’s one I used to pass every day, a candy store telling us that “WHEN IT COME TO NUTS, CHOCOLATES AND CANDIES, WE ARE THE BEST.” Call it the new boldface. ..............................................

Of course to many, the new boldface is simply “wrong.” However, as a linguist I have a deep-seated skepticism toward much of what we are taught and think it is so conclusively “wrong” in the way we speak and write.

I value graceful expression as much as anyone. What gets ticklish for me are claims that it is, for example, “wrong” to use impact as a verb. Quite simply, the verbs view, silence, worship, copy, and outlaw all began as nouns. No one has a problem with them.

Thus wearing my linguist hat, I am inclined to treat the new boldface as a variant usage of punctuation which, since it is used consistently by users, cannot on any logical grounds be rejected as “wrong.”

After all, just as nouns are always becoming verbs in English, even the uses of punctuation change, and I don’t mean across vast expanses of time such as that which separates us from Shakespeare. A hundred years ago in America it was considered good style on signs to put a period after nouns used alone. Across the street from me, the facing on a house was removed and revealed an antique sign that read PATTERN MAKERS. although “pattern makers” is not a sentence. You commonly see periods used this way in photos of the era.

I shall be on the lookout now for examples here in the UK, they’re probably all around and I just haven’t noted them before.

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Posted: 29 October 2007 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I know I’m not clear on how to add emphasis. The choices seem to be: bold, italics, “quotation marks,” or ‘inverted commas.’ It seems I read in the Chicago Manual of Style sometime back that italics should be used sparingly, mainly for terms that are being introduced for the first time or for foreign terms not frequently encountered in English. A professor once chastized me, albeit mildly, for using inverted commas for emphasis, but that was back in the day when all I had was a manual typewriter, so the only alternative was underlining.

While on the subject, is it the case in Britain that the ‘single’ quotation marks are standard, and a quote-within-a-quote gets the “double”?

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Posted: 29 October 2007 09:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Iron Pyrite - 29 October 2007 09:16 AM


While on the subject, is it the case in Britain that the ‘single’ quotation marks are standard, and a quote-within-a-quote gets the “double”?

Usually the other way round in my experience. The Style Guide published by the Guardian newspaper has this:

Use double quotes at the start and end of a quoted section, with single quotes for quoted words within that section. Place full points and commas inside the quotes for a complete quoted sentence; otherwise the point comes outside: “Mary said, ‘Your style guide needs updating,’ and I said, ‘I agree.’ ” but: “Mary said updating the guide was ‘a difficult and time-consuming task’.”

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Posted: 29 October 2007 09:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks for the clarification. Another case of internet mythology (now dispelled).

[ Edited: 29 October 2007 10:05 AM by Iron Pyrite ]
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Posted: 29 October 2007 10:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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No internet myth, just a change in practice.  For a long time, the British standard was single quotes for a normal quotation, double quotes for a quote-within-a-quote, just as you say.  I’ve got several bookshelf-feet (at least) of British novels following this convention. I was astounded by aldi’s post, but Googling around I see that British publishers, especially newspapers, are adopting the American standard.

See, for instance, Brian’s Errors.

Edit: Or, more authoritatively perhaps, The Oxford Guide to Style:

Quotation marks, also called ‘inverted commas’, are of two types: single and double.  British practice is normally to enclose quoted matter between single quotation marks, and to use double quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation:

‘Have you any idea’, he said, ‘what “dillygrout” is?’

This is the preferred OUP practice for academic books.  The order is often reversed in newspapers, and uniformly in US practice:

“Have you any idea,” he said, “what ‘dillygrout’ is?”

I would bet that the overwhelming majority of the books on aldi’s shelves follow the single-quote standard.

[ Edited: 29 October 2007 10:20 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 29 October 2007 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I know I’m not clear on how to add emphasis. The choices seem to be: bold, italics, “quotation marks,” or ‘inverted commas.’ It seems I read in the Chicago Manual of Style sometime back that italics should be used sparingly, mainly for terms that are being introduced for the first time or for foreign terms not frequently encountered in English.

There are others. Underlining has been mentioned. You can also use all caps. Larger font size works too.

What is an appropriate method depends on the medium. I wouldn’t use the Chicago Manual to guide the creation of signage. All caps is a good way to emphasize words in a sign (providing lower-case letters are used elsewhere), but would be inappropriate on the internet. Larger font size is also good for signs and the web, but not for email where formatting is frequently stripped out, etc.

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Posted: 29 October 2007 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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… I filled out the massacre with the four part harmony, wrote it down there, just like it was, and I put down the pencil, and turned over the piece of paper, and there--
there on the other side,
in the middle of the other side,
away from everything else on the other side--
in parentheses--
capital letters--
quotated--
read the following words:

("KID, HAVE YOU REHABILITATED YOURSELF?")

Arlo Guthrie, Alice’s Restaurant

[ Edited: 29 October 2007 12:04 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 29 October 2007 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Dr. Techie - 29 October 2007 10:13 AM

No internet myth, just a change in practice.  For a long time, the British standard was single quotes for a normal quotation, double quotes for a quote-within-a-quote, just as you say.  I’ve got several bookshelf-feet (at least) of British novels following this convention. I was astounded by aldi’s post, but Googling around I see that British publishers, especially newspapers, are adopting the American standard.

See, for instance, Brian’s Errors.

Edit: Or, more authoritatively perhaps, The Oxford Guide to Style:

Quotation marks, also called ‘inverted commas’, are of two types: single and double.  British practice is normally to enclose quoted matter between single quotation marks, and to use double quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation:

‘Have you any idea’, he said, ‘what “dillygrout” is?’

This is the preferred OUP practice for academic books.  The order is often reversed in newspapers, and uniformly in US practice:

“Have you any idea,” he said, “what ‘dillygrout’ is?”

I would bet that the overwhelming majority of the books on aldi’s shelves follow the single-quote standard.

You’re quite right, doc, as a quick sampling of my shelves reveals. I’d completely misremembered and the error was compounded by checking a modern British style guide for confirmation; I had no idea there’d been a sea change.

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Posted: 29 October 2007 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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"QUOTATED” ??????

It was only after i had potated three large vodkas in quick succession that i was able even partially to digest that one. I hope to goodness that Mr. Guthrie’s usage does not become widespread. For my part, i find it repulsive. Of course, there’s no accounting for tastes. “De gustibus non disputandum” (I quotate)

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Posted: 30 October 2007 02:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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lionello - 29 October 2007 12:45 PM

“QUOTATED" ??????

It was only after i had potated three large vodkas in quick succession that i was able even partially to digest that one. I hope to goodness that Mr. Guthrie’s usage does not become widespread. For my part, i find it repulsive. Of course, there’s no accounting for tastes. “De gustibus non disputandum” (I quotate)

If you’d ever heard it from the lips of the author you’d realize that no other word would work in the circumstances.  Also, if you note the context, “quotate” does not mean “quote.” It means “put quotation marks around.”

Some good comments in this thread about what might be called “grocer’s quotes.” Quite often the whole sign will be in caps so that form of emphasis is out and the signs are often handprinted so italics is not much of an option.  What I tend to find amusing about the process is that often in colloquial spoken usage, what are known as scare quotes or finger quotes are often used ironically.

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Posted: 30 October 2007 07:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Putting advertising statements in quotes is a marketing thing. Testing has shown that statements in quotes have more impact than statements without quotes.

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Posted: 31 October 2007 08:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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happydog - 30 October 2007 07:18 AM

Putting advertising statements in quotes is a marketing thing. Testing has shown that statements in quotes have more impact than statements without quotes.

You mean “testing” has “shown”...?

Grocer’s quotes are pretty common in my experience, my favourite was a sign advertising “FRESH” SHELLFISH. I didn’t buy any. It did make me realise though that I am almost certainly in a minority in reading that as “allegedly fresh, with reasonable grounds for doubt”.

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Posted: 01 November 2007 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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nomis - 31 October 2007 08:19 PM

happydog - 30 October 2007 07:18 AM
Putting advertising statements in quotes is a marketing thing. Testing has shown that statements in quotes have more impact than statements without quotes.

You mean “testing” has “shown”...?

Grocer’s quotes are pretty common in my experience, my favourite was a sign advertising “FRESH” SHELLFISH. I didn’t buy any. It did make me realise though that I am almost certainly in a minority in reading that as “allegedly fresh, with reasonable grounds for doubt”.

If you’re asking if my testing and my results are alleged with reasonable grounds for doubt, then the answer is no. I’m speaking from personal experience. Successful marketers test, frustrated marketers guess. Just as successful seafood buyers use their nose and eyes to determine if the seafood is fresh and frustrated seafood buyers read signs.

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Posted: 01 November 2007 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I remember a certain geek who used to emphasise with *asterisks* (which originally meant in English “little star").

edited typo of emphasise

[ Edited: 01 November 2007 10:07 AM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 01 November 2007 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Asterisks were common method of showing emphasis back in the days when much Internet communication was done in straight ASCII, without such formatting options as boldface, italics, or even underlining.  There was a more-or-less standard convention that asterisks before and after a word or phrase indicated boldface, underlines before and after represented underlining of all the text between them, and flanking slashes indicated italicization.

I.e.:

*word* = word
_word_ = word
/word/ = word

For internet geezers like me these were hard habits to break.  I *still* find myself doing it occasionally.

[ Edited: 01 November 2007 12:34 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 01 November 2007 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Dr T, I wish you’d stop emphantasizing about my shortcomings.  Nobody else would have known if you hadn’t spilled the beans so please do try to restrain yourself next time.

Edit:
This post was in response to Dr Techie’s drawing attention to my malapropism in the previous post (empathise instead of emphasise).  But I think he edited it out because I edited mine out, if you see what I mean.  His last sentence was “I’m going to regret this, I know I am.” And as I’m always up for a challenge ...

[ Edited: 01 November 2007 10:24 AM by ElizaD ]
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