The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, June 17, 2004
 

Quotation marks ethics


There aren't any.

I can't remember seeing polling evidence of what readers understand the significance of quotation marks to be: my guess is that many would think they carried a guarantee of ipsissima verba.

Which they don't. Last time (April 30), we were talking about cleaning up Bush's language within quotes.

This time, Chicago Tribune ombud Don Wycliff takes a canter through the subject once more (he also was behind the earlier piece).

He cites White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen:
if he were quoted literally, would be all but unintelligible most of the time, because his command of English is minimal. Is our purpose in quoting Guillen to demonstrate his abilities as a wordsmith or to present his knowledge of the game of baseball? And what does this mean for a reporter who must decide whether and how to "clean up" Guillen's quotations?

Now, Guillen's rookie season in MLB was 1985 - so I'm not clear why he hasn't picked up the lingo by now.

However - the better route would be to have Guillen opine in Spanish, and translate: but, as I'm sure I mentioned before, hispanophone sports writers in the US are not thick on the ground.

The real problem with quote marks is not that words within them have been tampered with, but that papers do not make this clear on the back of the box.

Some organisations officially endorse the fantasy: both AP and the New York Times' stylebooks state the purist approach: no cleaning up text in quotes.

A little legwork on Guillen quotes would prove them both liars, I'm sure.


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