Editing Tip #14

Mind Your Ps & Qs

Ps & Qs‘Postrophes and Quotation marks are used in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes when we write.  Often a writer will base their usage on personal style or an admired author.  Depending on where an admired author hails from (Britain, America, Canada, etc.) their usage may be different than what is expected in your country.

Also note that opinions and usage will differ from one editor/publisher to the next and from one genre to another.

The rules I’m outlining below are common usage in Canada and the United States.  In the end, though, listen to your editor/publisher for they are more familiar with your genre and their specific publishing guidelines.


1) They take the place of one or more letters:

– we’ll (we will)

– ’round (around)

2) They show the possessive:

– Laurie’s book (singular)

– The Smiths’ belongings (plural) – note: if the plural word ends in ‘s’ then you don’t need to write the possessive ‘s’ after the apostrophe.

Quotation Marks

1) Double quotes denote spoken words – dialogue:

– “I’ll race you,” Tommy said.

– “Oh, my God.” I said aloud, “How could you do such a thing?”

2) Single quotes denote someone else’s words inside spoken dialogue, make reference to recognizable ideas, or highlight relevant ideas when someone is thinking (italics can also be used for this purpose).

– “No.  Mom said, ‘never go to the ravine’ but you didn’t listen,” I said.

– “I told you to ‘think like a deer’ and you make such a ruckus you scared all the game away.”

– This was my first time in the city after dark and the words ‘after midnight’ from that song kept playing over and over in my head.

Proper use of punctuation comes with practice.  Once you are able to identify your habits, your subconscious will not only make it easier for you to spot errors already made in a first draft but guide you to better usage during the initial writing phase.

Happy Editing!

Categories: Editing

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