Punctuation. Custom Essay Writing 

 

Colons

I always think of these two dots as two hands outstretched, palms up, saying "and here they are." Colons are thus used to introduce an itemized list or a quotation that is not otherwise introduced. "Many things are found in the sea: clams, mermaids, and hospital syringes." But if you have a phrase like "such as" introducing the list, you do not use the colon. The colon takes the place of the introductory phrase. In a quotation, the same distinction applies. "Emerson said, 'A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.'" But "There is an Emersonian phrase that is much quoted: 'A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.'" In the second example, the colon can be thought of as saying "and here it is."

Quotation Marks

The rule regulating the use of quotation marks is fairly straightforward: Put quotation marks around only actual, literal quotations. Some students have begun to use quotation marks for emphasis; off with their heads! Use the double quotation marks only on either side of a statement that you can prove is a quotation, word for word. If the original is ungrammatical or misspelled, quote it exactly. If you want to protect yourself from the charge that you left in a typo that in fact is not yours, put [sic] in brackets after the quoted word. This is Latin for "so." It means, "Hey, prof, this author actually said it this way. It's not my fault. And I've got the proof if you need it." Note that parentheses within a quote are considered part of the quote. Only brackets indicate an intrusion into the quotation.

A case was argued in the courts recently in which a writer had enclosed in quotation marks words not actually said in an unflattering book about a man who subsequently sued the author. A lot of writers who should know better defended the practice on the grounds that the distinction between fact and fiction is so subjective that it does not matter. This is an example of the literary world's desire to believe that language, its language, constitutes reality, that there is no truth outside of language, and since all such "truth" is really a language construction, then any language construction is as good as any other. The courts decided otherwise, bless them.

The biggest problem I've run into with quotation marks on student papers is placement of any punctuation not part of the quote. Once upon a time, the rule regulating this was easy to follow. All punctuation went within the quotation marks whether it was part of the quotation or not. Did Nixon really say, "I am not a crook?" Note that the question mark was not part of the quote, but still it was placed inside the quotation marks. The only exceptions to this rule were the colon and the semicolon. Absolutely everything else went inside the quotation marks no matter what the circumstances.

You undoubtedly have noticed the nervous use of the past tense in this explanation. During the year I was in Slovakia imparting the glories of American culture to the victims of Marxism, someone changed the rules on me. I still have not figured out who or why.

 
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