Friday, September 24, 2010

Art & Culture: The Book of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks by Bethany Keeley

I blame it on the untold number of ill-equipped grade school teachers who gave us the impression that all this punctuation stuff was somehow ephemeral. They gave us the idea that there was something soft and fuzzy around the edges of punctuation. That the absolutes of punctuation were sort of granular. That it wasn’t so much that we needed to find the right way or the wrong way, as long as we did it their way, we’d be go to go.

And so the result: more people than not seem completely undone by even super common issues of punctuation. Where to use a comma and -- just as confusing -- where not to. Should the choice be an en-dash or an em-dash... and what the hell is the difference between them, anyway? And colons and semi-colons? Most people pushed those right out the window before they ever got their license to drive.

Into this fray of confusion and misunderstanding comes The Book of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks (Chronicle), a book -- based on a blog -- that celebrates hilarious misuses of the common quote. Rest assured: you will not exit The Book of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks with a better understanding of punctuation and how to use it more powerfully in your life. But you will laugh. Sometimes you will laugh a lot.

“‘Hot’ Water is Very ‘Hot’” one sign tells us.

“Spread the word, peanuts are ‘good’ for you,” says another.

And I love this photo/cutline combo. The cutline says, “Three little words that become deeply unsettling with the addition of quotation marks.” The words in question? “We have ‘soup.’”

You (hopefully) won’t look at quotation marks the same way again. Happy Punctuation Day! ◊

Linda L. Richards is editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.



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