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How Do Others Handle This?

Ross at Play

Style guides mention two conventions for quote marks which appear to be in conflict.
* quotes (within quotes ...) within quotes/dialogue show nested quotations by alternating between single and double quote marks
* non-literal expressions may be enclosed in quote marks but single or double quote marks are used to distinguish between different types of meanings. Single quotes are used for, say, metaphorical expressions which are suggestive the author's intended meaning. Double quotes (aka scare quotes) are used for irony when the intended meaning is the opposite of the literal meaning of the expression.

This apparent contradiction would rarely cause problems in formal writing. That would not include quotes of others' sarcasm very often.

However, this is causing a dilemma for me with my WIP. It contains a lot of dialogue from one character who's both pretentious and cynical. Within dialogue, I will need to distinguish between pretentious metaphors (single quotes) and ironic sarcasm (double quotes). And yes, for those who wondered, WIP is semi-autobiographical.

I think I know the answer. The alternating of single and double quote marks only applies to quotations, not expressions. This should not cause confusion for readers because quote marked expression should never be longer than a few words.

How do others handle this? Can anyone identify examples of how dead-tree authors of fiction have handled it?

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

How do others handle this?

I use single and double quotation marks to point out pretentious or cynical statements the same way I use a smiley to mark a joke.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

I use the double apostrophes to show dialogue, and when someone is being quoted in the dialogue I reference it and place the quote in single quotation marks and use italics for the quote. If I need to let the reader know something more about what is being quoted I'll include it in either the narrative or the dialogue associated with it. An example would be:

Fred turned to Bob, and said, "I hate the sarcastic way Jim says, 'Wow, just what we need to do!' when someone suggests something he doesn't like."

edit to add: When you're assigning an emotion to a dialogue it has to be shown in the narrative, but you can't really do that when it's in the dialogue of another character quoting the first, so you have to include some dialogue o show that, or the reader is likely to miss it.

Ross at Play

@robberhands

EB suggested an approach of explaining unorthodox meanings, giving this as an example:

Fred turned to Bob, and said, "I hate the sarcastic way Jim says, 'Wow, just what we need to do!' when someone suggests something he doesn't like."

I am not going to do that. My WIP is intended to be humorous and I'm not going to explain my jokes.
* * *
How would you handle something that a formal writer might put like this:

Fred turned to Bob, and said, "I find Jim "so helpful" when he starts 'quoting scripture and verse' at me."

I gather you're saying you wouldn't use quote marks for either expressions within dialogue. Now that you've pointed it out, it does seem sensible to me. My quote marks are effectively explaining my jokes: and treating readers like idiots too.

So, do I understand you correctly? My guess is the only thing you'd even consider doing to my sample is to put 'helpful' in italics to show the speaker putting stress on it while speaking.

Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

My guess is the only thing you'd even consider doing to my sample is to put 'helpful' in italics to show the speaker putting stress on it while speaking.


I usually use bold for emphasis. And if Fred was being sarcastic I'd include something to show that as well. Like

Fred turned to Bob, and said, "I find Jim so helpful when he starts 'quoting scripture and verse' at me." Bob slowly shook his head at the heavy sarcasm in Fred's voice.


It's one thing to not explain a joke, and an entirely other to not make the fact of the joke obvious to the reader. Several month back someone on this forum was bitching about getting complaints and low scores for a story where they had a lot of jokes many readers didn't see as jokes because there was nothing to show he was joking. The author has the right to present the story how they want, but they have no right to later bitch if people complain they did the job badly when they don't indicate something is supposed to be a certain way.

robberhands

@Ross at Play

So, do I understand you correctly? My guess is the only thing you'd even consider doing to my sample is to put 'helpful' in italics to show the speaker putting stress on it while speaking.

Yes, and I wouldn't use italics either. If you worry your readers don't get it, rewrite or drop the lines.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
robberhands

@Ernest Bywater

The author has the right to present the story how they want, but they have no right to later bitch if people complain they did the job badly when they don't indicate something is supposed to be a certain way.

I have the same right to complain as my readers. If they are allowed to complain they don't understand my jokes, then I'm allowed to complain they are a humorless bunch of pampered illiterates.

Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

I usually use bold for emphasis.

Six of one ... (provided you are consistent)

Several month back someone on this forum was bitching about ... low scores [because] many readers [couldn't see their] jokes ... The author has ... no right to later bitch

I totally agree.

... if people complain they did the job badly when they don't indicate something is supposed to be a certain way.

I totally disagree low scores show they "did the job badly". I think they made a choice which has costs and benefits - but they should not bitch about the negative consequences of their choice.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE!

I do not doubt the approach you suggest tends to produce a higher average score and a relatively normal distribution of scores. I'd probably recommend that kind of approach for any genre other than humour.

As an author of humour, my choice is a style intended to produce a lower average score but a flatter distribution, with a higher standard deviation. My audience is those who enjoy my style of humour. It is not a taste that can be acquired. I am looking for the greatest number of readers possible who will love my writing. That will result in many hating it. So be it! I won't be bitching about low scores. I would suggest the other adopts a similar attitude.

robberhands
Updated:

To relativize my earlier statement. The irony and humor you display in your story needs to be congruent with the characters you developed. Some people have dry humor, some people are blunt, some are obvious. If you have a character like AJ, for example, let him wear a clown's hat and silly grin after everything he says.

Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

I totally disagree low scores show they "did the job badly".


I didn't mean the low scores equals a bad job, just that people who think it's a bad job will give a low score and bitch about it. That's all.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

I won't be bitching about low scores. I would suggest the other adopts a similar attitude.


I don't bitch about the scores at all, although I will join in discussions on them when others are bitching. I've been around here long enough to have a good feel of the whole scoring system, and what it's been through a few changes. My oldest story posted here was in 2007, and I'd been a reader for several years before that, but with a different sign on which I lost to a dead computer because I couldn't remember it then, so I just got another free account.

Ross at Play

@robberhands

I'm allowed to complain they are a humorless bunch of pampered illiterates.

I have a quibble with that. YES, THEY ARE "a humorless bunch of [Americans]" - but you knew in advance they existed and would be reading your story.

* * *

THANK YOU for your comments. I have learned a very important lesson.

I am quite proud of all the special effects I have learned how to create as I've practiced the craft of writing in this forum. But just because I can, that doesn't mean I should. In fact, in stories I almost always SHOULD NOT. I should trust I will find enough readers smart enough to enjoy my stories without being spoon-fed ... and the rest will stop reading them. And damn whatever scores the stories end up with!

* * *

I actually did this a while back. I sent Lazeez a Feature Request that the story codes should include both 'Humor' and 'Humour'. I was hoping to scare Americans away from reading my stories and dragging down my scores, because so many just don't get the British style of humour. He responded he would not do that because people [Americans!] would assume he had made a mistake and start complaining.

Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

I didn't mean the low scores equals a bad job, just that people who think it's a bad job will give a low score and bitch about it. That's all.

Yes. Sorry. Your post was clear 'bad job' was the assessment of some readers, as opposed to an "objective" assessment.

Ross at Play

@robberhands

The irony and humor you display in your story need to be congruent with the characters

You're preaching to the choir with that one, but thanks anyway.

richardshagrin

@robberhands

illiterates

"il·lit·er·ate
i(l)ˈlidərət
noun
plural noun: illiterates
a person who is unable to read or write."

If they are readers they can't be illiterates.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@richardshagrin

BOO! HISS!

From OxD

illiterate adjective

... as if by somebody without much education
... e.g. That morning I received a somewhat illiterate letter from my client.

robberhands

@Ross at Play

I have a quibble with that. YES, THEY ARE "a humorless bunch of [Americans]" - but you knew in advance they existed and would be reading your story.

Your quote cut a statement with condition and consequence. Never ever do that!

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@robberhands

Your quote cut a statement with condition and consequence. Never ever do that!

condition???
consequence???

Are you suggesting I should have written this?

YES, THEY ARE "a humorless bunch of" Americans


BTW, I have a new policy. No more smileys to say this is a joke. Perhaps some for other reasons, e.g. after an apology. If anyone objects after interpreting me literally I'll just explain the joke.

Replies:   robberhands
richardshagrin
Updated:

@robberhands


If they are allowed to complain they don't understand my jokes, then I'm allowed to complain they are a humorless bunch of pampered illiterates.


I still get the impression they are people rather than documents. "... e.g. That morning I received a somewhat illiterate letter from my client."

Perhaps somewhat illiterate persons are also somewhat literate. Did you mean to say "a humorless bunch of pampered somewhat illiterates"?

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

BTW, I have a new policy. No more smileys to say this is a joke.

I accept this statement as your apology.

Replies:   Ross at Play
robberhands

@richardshagrin

I still get the impression they are people rather than documents.

How very perceptive of you, I guess. Are you sure you correctly addressed this comment?

Replies:   richardshagrin
Ross at Play

@robberhands

I accept this statement as your apology.

Understood. I am usually more careful when revising quotes by others.

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Reading the title of the thread, I was really pleased it wasn't accompanied by a dick pic ;)

AJ

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

I didn't worry about that. Ross created the thread and he's a homophobe.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Ross at Play
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

..__..
(......)
.|....|.
.|....|.
.|....|.

robberhands

@Ross at Play

A homophobe in denial, apparently.

samuelmichaels

@Ross at Play

That's what we need on SOL -- stories with erotic ASCII art as illustrations!

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@samuelmichaels

stories with erotic ASCII art as illustrations!

Unfortunately the backslash character will not display.

I tried to draw a picture of AJ, but with no backslash I cannot get the clown's hat right. :(

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

I tried to draw a picture of AJ, but with no backslash I cannot get the clown's hat right. :(


How about a dunce's hat? Any easier?

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

This time your humility won't be able to get the crosshairs off your back. The movement against abhorrent smiley abusers has targeted you.

samuelmichaels

@Ross at Play

I tried to draw a picture of AJ, but with no backslash I cannot get the clown's hat right. :(


There is something very wrong if you need clown's hats for erotic art. /\

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

Fred turned to Bob, and said, "I find Jim "so helpful" when he starts 'quoting scripture and verse' at me."


I would never put a double quote within a double quote. The beginning of the second one would look like the end of the first one. That's why you alternate between double and single quotes.

The only time I use single quotes is when there's a quote within a quote.

In your example, I would probably use italics for "so helpful." I wouldn't do anything for "quoting scripture and verse."

Ross at Play
Updated:

@samuelmichaels

There is something very wrong if you need clown's hats for erotic art. /

Sorry. I was thinking of erotic horror. I actually was watching Buffy S01E10 "Nightmares" at the time

WTF???

How DID you do that?
The backslash in your post disappeared when I quoted it???
I have tried %5C, but that didn't work.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I thought British humour was an oxymoron.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I thought British humour was an oxymoron.

You should go back to shooting bad guys. Oh, BTW. They're the ones wearing black hats.

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Ross created the thread and he's a homophobe.


Does that mean the title of my WIP is sufficient to deter him, and all my info dumplings are superfluous? ;)

AJ

Ross at Play
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

Does that mean the title of my WIP is sufficient to deter him, and all my info dumplings are superfluous? ;)

The title is superfluous: the author name suffices.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

I thought British humour was an oxymoron.


Only if they win the election for the office they're running for. ;-)

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

Does that mean the title of my WIP is sufficient to deter him, and all my info dumplings are superfluous? ;)

Trying to deter Ross is superfluous. He's as undeterrable as a natural disaster.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@robberhands

Trying to deter Ross is superfluous. He's as undeterrable as a natural disaster.

I AM a natural disaster!

I was in Brisbane during the floods of January 1974.
I went to Darwin and wiped it out with a cyclone in December of that year.
Later on I summoned bushfires to ravage Canberra in 2003.
My powers are growing. In 2015 I caused Mount Raung to erupt from about 200 miles away.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

If anyone's interested, it looks like City just wrapped up the EPL title before the season is half-way through.
They just won their away derby stretching their lead out to 11 points.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

How would you handle something that a formal writer might put like this:

Fred turned to Bob, and said, "I find Jim "so helpful" when he starts 'quoting scripture and verse' at me."

I gather you're saying you wouldn't use quote marks for either expressions within dialogue. Now that you've pointed it out, it does seem sensible to me. My quote marks are effectively explaining my jokes: and treating readers like idiots too.

In this case, the "so helpful" is an emphasis point, so you can either alternate the quote marks (i.e. single quotes to offset the double quotes OR you can emphasize it with emphasis marks (i.e. italics). The choice is yours, as I use both in my stories. However my go-to response is to put the alternate quotes, so it's clear that you aren't closing off the initial quote, but you only use it in the middle of a sentence, so there's no question that you didn't mean to end the sentence (or didn't forget to properly close the quote). The key is, you can't leave any doubt.

The single quotes within double quotes are literal air-quotes by the speaker, meaning it's meant to be biting, whereas a simple sharp retort in typically highlighted with italics, so the punch line stands out, but it doesn't indicate malicious intent on the part of the speaker.

Examples of the two styles follow:

"I find Jim to be so helpful when he quotes scripture and verse at me," Jim said, adjusting his liturgical collar.

vs.

"Jim is 'so helpful' when he quotes scripture and verse at me," Jim said, putting his Pro-Choice placard down to warm his hands.

This first example is meant to be humorous without being judgmental, while the second is ALL about judging the actions of others.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I usually use bold for emphasis. And if Fred was being sarcastic I'd include something to show that as well.

The one thing that's been drilled into me over and over by editors (pro and amateur) is that you don't mix bold and italics, as then you end up with a hodgepodge of formats and readers never know what to expect.

You generally want your formatting to be subtle, so readers notice the difference but don't focus on it. Thus while you may use both bolding and italics, you keep them separate. In my case, I'll use bolding for section heads to when someone reads a sign where something is bolded (i.e. they're reading something that's bolded, so the text they're reading is centered, oversized and bolded, whereas if they make a snide comment, you simply italicize it. But I NEVER use bolding to denote how someone speaks. That's overkill, and is akin to using a half-dozen exclamation marks when a single one serves the same purpose just fine!

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

Yes, and I wouldn't use italics either. If you worry your readers don't get it, rewrite or drop the lines.

That's probably the best bet. If it's a toss-up about whether readers will 'get' the joke or not, that's a clear sign the joke isn't essential to understanding the story, and thus doesn't really belong in the story. Instead, it makes the story stronger leaving the 'joke' on the cutting room floor.

Forcing the reader to bend over backwards to 'get' your inside joke is more likely to alienate and insult readers than it is to win converts to your side.

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

I have the same right to complain as my readers. If they are allowed to complain they don't understand my jokes, then I'm allowed to complain they are a humorless bunch of pampered illiterates.

Put it this way: if two different comedians tell the exact same joke on two different nights, one one gets booed, and the other gets cheered, what is your immediate assumption? That the listeners didn't 'get' the joke, or that the one comedians didn't tell it correctly?

The same is true in literature. If readers don't get your punchline, it's because you only inserted the joke into the story to amuse yourself at the expense of your readers ("They'll never get this, because my readers are all too stupid to understand something so clever!"). In that case, it's no wonder an author will get low scores. It isn't that they don't understand, it's that they resent the implication behind your setting your own readers up to fail!

Replies:   robberhands
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

To relativize my earlier statement. The irony and humor you display in your story needs to be congruent with the characters you developed. Some people have dry humor, some people are blunt, some are obvious. If you have a character like AJ, for example, let him wear a clown's hat and silly grin after everything he says.

I hate to suggest it, but you (and Ross) may want to try a thought experiment, and write a short story about a dinner party, where two different dinner guests each make cutting remarks about the other. One uses biting, fairly obvious humor, and the other uses dry 'British' humor, and see which style works, how they conflict, and how they interplay. And THEN give it to a few readers you know, and WATCH how they respond to it. Do they laugh (or chuckle) where you expect them too, or do they miss the punch lines or laugh at the wrong ones.

Using friends you know is more insightful than guessing how complete strangers will respond. If friends familiar with your style of storytelling don't get the joke, then you're clearly telling it wrong. However, if your friends honestly think the other style of joke telling is funnier, then you're barking up the wrong tree, telling unfunny jokes.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Thanks, CW, that's consistent with the conclusion I'd already come to.
Formal writers may often need to clearly identify any irony and sarcasm. For dialogue in fiction it can just be part of their character.
I intend to dial down my special formats as much as possible and focus on which words speakers stress while they are speaking.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I should trust I will find enough readers smart enough to enjoy my stories without being spoon-fed ... and the rest will stop reading them. And damn whatever scores the stories end up with!

If you're truly going for subtle dry British humor, then you've got to learn to 'stick it'. The humor should be subtle enough that it strikes the right people, without insulting anyone (i.e. if the reader 'doesn't get it', they shouldn't feel cheater, or else you're building resentment in your own fans—which is a losing proposition either way.

Subtle is nice, but obnoxious helps no one! Subtle is also much harder to pull off successfully, and shouldn't be tempted by rank amateurs, and the pay off is slight while the cost of doing it badly is high.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

..__..
(......)
.|....|.
.|....|.
.|....|.

Sorry, but is that supposed to be a dick wearing a yamaka?

Along with your jokes, you may need to explain your dick-pics too!

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Trying to deter Ross is superfluous. He's as undeterrable as a natural disaster.

I AM a natural disaster!

Editors, in general, are as insistent as natural disasters. Rather than merely sweeping in with one large pronouncement: Don't use double adjectives, they instead continually lap the shore, gradually wearing away the ediface, repeating the same advice in slightly different language until they break down the author's defenses and make them see the destruction on their story when the sun finally shines on it.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. No harm intended, I was merely reflecting the mixed role of editors in improving story flow and undercutting an authors' original intent.

Ideally, the two work together and understand each other well enough to work around those issues. If not, they often continue to argue over the same issues time and again, causing each to compromise and undercut their own consistency.

robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

If readers don't get your punchline, it's because you only inserted the joke into the story to amuse yourself at the expense of your readers ...

Maybe some of my jokes will no one ever understand, and maybe some people will never understand any joke I tell, but it's impossible that everyone won't get any joke I make.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I intend to dial down my special formats as much as possible and focus on which words speakers stress while they are speaking.

That's a safer tack, using formatting to emphasize how a sentence is read, rather than what it supposedly means. It's easy to denote how a particular characters expresses something, but then it's up to the author to define THE CHARACTER so that readers understand what his underlying criticism is. Knowing that a particular character is caustic, judgmental, subtle or antagonistic is a much better way of emphasizing a joke than is how you format the joke itself.

In short, only italicize words or phrases to emphasize where the speaker emphasizes words, just an an ellipsis only emphasizes where the speaker pauses, mid sentence, rather than to denote what he left out of the sentence. What he intended is defined by the character, not the formatting.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

only italicize words or phrases to emphasize where the speaker emphasizes words

I'm glad I opened the thread, and that is the conclusion I came to, for stories.

For posts here I'll keep on using my comic-book-style special effects. I have fun with those.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
richardshagrin

@robberhands

Are you sure you correctly addressed this comment?


No, I should have addressed it to Ross at Play
"Ross at Play 12/10/2017, 1:47:01 AM

@richardshagrin
BOO! HISS!

From OxD

illiterate adjective

... as if by somebody without much education
... e.g. That morning I received a somewhat illiterate letter from my client."

It sounded to me he thought letters were illiterate.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

For posts here I'll keep on using my comic-book-style special effects. I have fun with those.

On the forum, we aren't concerned with point of view (narrator vs. character), so we're unconcerned with the rules of literary formatting (other than as points to argue over), so everything goes.

Generally, we just type what we need to before we forget what we wanted to say. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

That morning I received a somewhat illiterate letter from my client."

It sounded to me he thought letters were illiterate.

They are. Letter's can't read the writing on them, they need readers to READ the messages they convey. 'D

KinkyWinks

I knew there was a good reason to not use quotation marks.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking
Updated:

@Ross at Play

City were the away team but had two-thirds of the possession. Parking the bus is Mourinho's only strategy against decent teams.

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@KinkyWinks

I knew there was a good reason to not use quotation marks.

Emphasis (italics) = pronunciation of dialogue.
Alternating quotes = biting personal critique of individual.

samuelmichaels
Updated:

@Ross at Play


How DID you do that?

The backslash in your post disappeared when I quoted it???

I have tried %5C, but that didn't work.


It's -- ampersand-octothorpe-nine-two-semicolon. Or double backslash. It disappears if you edit it, so you need to renter the codes (or backslashes) on edit.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@samuelmichaels

octothorpe

... or for the less literate and pot heads among us, the 'hash symbol'.

I'll test that now.
Ampersand then #92: produces &#92:
Alternatively, entering 92 (decimal) in hexadecimal, x5C, produces &#x5C:

Well … that failed miserably.

How about consecutive backslashes? That produces \

Thanks. You've opened up an entire new universe of ways I can waste time here instead of getting on with the writing.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ross at Play

You've opened up an entire new universe of ways I can waste time here instead of getting on with the writing.

There's no limit to the number of things you can do to keep from writing, and if options exist, we continue to find the most pointless of things to occupy us.

Test - It works for me. Exactly as claimed.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

I'm a big fan of procrastination, too. It's a valuable form of time-management. Don't laugh, it's true!

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

:


Semi-colon, not colon at the end \

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Semi-colon, not colon at the end

By the way, the command is "\".

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Semi-colon, not colon

\

DOH!

And here I was, wondering whether to tell AJ to go stand in dunce's corner, again, for dragging the principal out of his office just to give him a ticking off.
Sorry, AJ, dunce's corner is occupied. :(

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Semi-colon, not colon

Basic html coding practice. Perhaps foreign to most who only post plain text chapters, though useful to learn if you want to implement more advanced formatting.

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