::Literate Blather::
Thursday, November 13, 2008
5 Questions About: Quotation Marks

An Interview with Bethany Keeley - the
"Quotation Marks" Girl

(DaRK PaRTY isn’t a stickler about “punctuation.” Hell, just read our entries! But we “try.” We think proper grammar is important to clear communication. We frown on the shortcuts people take when sending “emails” and using “IM.” Capitalization is important. Periods and comma are crucial. Misplaced or misused punctuation can change the meaning or tone of an entire “sentence.” But we aren’t as crazy about punctuation as Bethany Keeley, whom some people might point at and call a “nut job.” We’re not that “crass,” of course. We believe Bethany is providing a much needed service. Bethany, you see, publishes a blog called “The Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks” and if you want hilarious – well, look no further. Here’s our “interview” with Bethany.)

DaRK PaRTY: Can you explain to Dark Party readers the goal of "The Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks?"

Bethany: I would say that the goal is to have fun by intentionally misinterpreting things that are within quotation marks. As a side effect, I hope to encourage clear, precise writing.

DP: Now can you tell us how to use "quotation marks" correctly? (Did I just blow it?)

Bethany: I will first clarify that my blog is much more concerned with good and bad, clear and unclear writing rather than what is "correct" or “proper.” A lot of times these rules are arbitrary or ambiguous, and I'm more interested in getting across a message or having fun than following the rules. However, quotation marks usually mark one of the following: a direct, attributed quotation, a title, sarcasm or distancing from the term being used or an innuendo. People have argued that they are appropriate to mark a pun, but I would say that any pun needing its own punctuation is not a good one.

DP: Why does the misuse use of quotation marks irritate/amuse you?

Bethany: It amuses me because often you can take the quotation marks to mean the opposite of what was probably intended. And come on, that's funny. I try very hard, though, to keep the tone of my site light and not hostile. I mean, its just punctuation.

DP: Why do you think “sign writers” (oh, boy, I can't stop) use so many quotation marks?

Bethany: People don't think carefully about writing. They throw in extra punctuation because they feel like something should go there or because they want to emphasize things. I'm guilty too: I love commas that don't make sense. Just ask my professors!

DP: Your blog has gotten a lot of publicity lately because of an AP story on you last year. What are the most amusing reactions that you've been getting?

Bethany: When the AP story came out about a year ago I got some hostile emails and comments about how I should have better things to do with my time or something. Of course, this person apparently has enough time to police what I do with mine. I've also seen a fair amount of other kinds of sites spring up inspired by mine, and I'm never sure if I should be proud or horrified with the sheer volume of snarkiness attributed to my inspiration. I'm sure if it wasn't me it would be somebody else, the Internet is conducive to extreme specificity and weird ironic humor.

I've also had strangers get excited to have met the quotation mark girl, sometimes when I'm with people who I consider far more impressive. It definitely makes good cocktail chatter.

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Blogger Becky said...
Cool! I love that blog! Thanks for posting the interview.

Blogger GFS3 said...
You are indeed welcome. Nice Red Sox cap as your avatar -- so close, yet so far!

Blogger Bybee said...
She's doing a good day's work.

Blogger GFS3 said...
Hi Bybee:
Why am I not surprised that you have found a kindred spirit?

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