With single quotation marks, ampersands and periods, follow the rules, not your instincts


Often, people assume they can know punctuation rules without looking them up — relying solely on their sheer powers of deduction. They assume wrong.

For instance, the phenomenon I call “quotation marks lite.” Here’s an example: ‘quotation marks lite.’

The single quotation marks in the second example — they’re wrong. Every credible punctuation guide says that, when you want to talk about a word or phrase, you use regular quotation marks.

Then there's the ampersand, which people assume works along with the word "and" to show different types of relationships between words, as in: Guests drank beer, wine and gin & tonics. The cafeteria’s sandwiches include tuna, turkey and ham & cheese.

Then there's the nearly universal assumption that you, the writer, get to decide whether to put a period before or after a quotation mark, as in: He called your story "hogwash".

All these assumptions can lead you to making very real punctuation errors. Here's my recent column explaining how to use these marks the right way.

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