Sunday, 4 July 2010

Speech marks - double or single?

Which do you like? And which do you use?

I prefer double, but I've always used single in my novels, for the simple reason that the key is right there, conveniently to the right of the semi colon, not requiring the Shift key. For double, it's Shift and 2. I believe on USA keyboards it's more accessible, which may be why they've stuck to double while in the UK these days we use either.

Now I am cursing myself for taking the line of least resistance. In order to accommodate American readers when I e-publish, I made the change in Heart of Rock, and it's been far from straightforward. Find and Replace changes all the apostrophes, too, and it takes hours to track each one down and correct it. And I care about apostrophes.

I'm not sure I've succeeded, either; I think I'll have to print the book out and read it through, possibly with a ruler under each line. Which is really annoying, as the typescript was, as far as one can ever say, typo-free.

Instead of an appropriate image, here is a nicer one of the blackbird who makes himself at home in my workshop. He's sunbathing.


  1. I'm used to double quotes for when someone speaks and single quote for everything else, although it does depend on other things - I don't quite think about it much

  2. I can't say it bothers me which are used in print - as long as it's consistent. An inappropriate double apostrophe would trouble me much more. Hope you managed to catch all those!


  3. Double quotes for me. It's what I always use in handwriting and that carried forward into typewritten material.

    In my case I think it's been reinforced by a programming background, where a lot of languages use double quotes around literal values, so I don't give it a second thought in other kinds of writing.

    On my keyboard, the " is above the ', so it still needs the shift key. But my finger reaches for the shift automatically whenever I type quotes it has become so ingrained, so it is no extra effort.

  4. GOOD LUCK with our e-publishing!! That's news to me! :-) Good luck with it!

    And doubles for me. I never even thought of using the single speechmark but there it is where you say it is on the keyboard - you're right. :-)

    I love your blackbird sunbathing. Lovely!
    Take care

  5. Lissa, I'm now doing as you do - except I've used italics for some quotes, such as notes and newspaper extracts. I'm fretting gently about those.

    K, I'm still fishing. The danger is thinking one has caught them all. The spellchecker should do it, but wasn't yesterday.

    Botanist, I just wish I hadn't wandered from the path of virtue...

    Kitty, thanks. E-publishing will be fun, I hope.

  6. I use single, hate double. Prefer to read single as well.
    But it's a personal choice, I think.
    Good luck with the E-publish. It seems to have a lot of support in the trade at the moment.

  7. In terms of mainstream publishing, I think either single or double is acceptable - as long as it's consistent (this is what I've read anyway).

    All the best with the e-publishing. Love the bird pic too! Clair x

  8. I believe some American readers find it jarring to read a novel with single speech marks. I'm all for anything that reduces the gap between the USA and the UK in the literary field, and in this case, as with 'ize', they are the traditionalists.

  9. The single quote saves a bit of ink. That's why us cheapskate brits prefer it.

  10. But Keef, by that logic you'd expect us to use only two dots for an ellipsis.

  11. Take your pick. It doesn't matter which you choose, because when you sell your novel, the copy editor assigned by the publisher is going to change the punctuation to conform with the house's style guide.

    In the US, that probably means the Orange Nemesis, a.k.a. the Chicago Manual of Style. If you're doing your own formatting for an epublisher, Lexi, (and anyone else for that matter), then you probably want to read the Chicago Manual. I'd expect the reference section of almost any library to have a (possibly dated) copy.

    I know it's not the most exhilarating read, and can even cause emotional trauma. Personally I'm still coming to terms with the mandate that em-dashes must not have spaces around them.

  12. Thanks, Gary - and I've found the Chicago Manual of Style free online:

    I shall read it, however unexhilarating it turns out to be.

  13. It was absolutely lovely to see you last night. Thank you so much for coming over. Do drop me an e-mail and I'll send you all the information I can find.
    Very best

  14. Ditto, Dan.

    Done that.


  15. Correction - that link turned out not to be a free copy of the Chicago Style Manual after all.

  16. I eagerly await HOR for ereader since I have a Barnes and Noble nook. Have you decided where you are going to publish?

  17. Alan, I plan to follow you to Smashwords. I'll publish a paperback, too.