Things I Learned from Writing a Book and Blogging about Unnecessary Quotation Marks

After years of blogging about quotation marks, and months of working on a book on the topic, you might expect me to have learned some weird and interesting things. That expectation would not be misplaced.

As a communication scholar, I’m fascinated by the technological aspects of running a popular blog. I am convinced my blog would not be possible without broadband internet and the cameraphone. These two technologies make it easy to take pictures when you weren’t expecting a Kodak moment, and to read and produce frivolous blogs and load them quickly. I’ve also seen the way one link on a popular website can lead to: a big spike in page views for a day or two, subsequent links, and sometimes a sustained increase in readership.

I’ve also learned some fairly useless things about people who submit quotation marks images. There are particular places where if something turns up, I’ll get several shots of it. Basically anything along a well-traveled highway gets sent to me regularly, especially around travel times like summer and holidays. Perhaps because NYC is so dense, I’ll always get repeat submissions of things there, often within days or minutes of each other. I also found that some people find exponentially more things more frequently than others. I’m not sure if these people visit more different places and have more opportunities, or if they are just more alert than the rest of us. I myself find examples rarely, maybe two or three a year. Once, to my chagrin, I ran to pick up lunch from my office and found myself right in front of a perfect example without a camera or phone! (I believe the place did “not” have any fried green tomatoes left). Actually, a friend of mine went back later and got the shot for me!

When I started emailing people for permission to use their images in print (something included in my disclaimer, but perhaps not the submitters expectation) I also learned some things about the unnecessary quotation marks community. I was blown away by the speed and generosity of responses to my emails. Even when I was emailing people on weekend evenings (the life of a blogger/writer/grad student is very exciting) I often heard back within a few hours. Come to think of it, this may be an effect of the new ubiquity of smart phones.

Another thing I learned is that some people are really intense about grammar rules. I often get emails from people asking that I start a similar blog about their personal grammar peeve. The most frequent offender seems to be apostrophe (at least two fine blogs already exist collecting apostrophe errors). I’ve also been berated for developing a somewhat idiosyncratic style on the issue of end punctuation and quotation marks used in a manner other than marking a quotation. I insist that my style is defensible, consistent and makes sense, but that doesn’t keep the occasional commenter from expressing the law with multiple exclamation points.

Most obviously, I learned a lot about the different ways quotation marks appear in everyday life. And let me tell you, it’s crazy. But you can read the book for more about that.

Bethany Keeley

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