Who needs quotation marks?
Well, the writer of this sign didn’t need them and Cormac McCarthy, author of the The Road and No Country for Old Men, never uses them. He believes in the absolute minimum punctuation. He uses full stops and capital letters, commas when they are essential, colons rarely and never ever semi colons or quotation marks. If you write properly you shouldn’t have to punctuate, he says and part of writing properly is to guide readers as to who’s speaking.
Here’s a short extract from The Road to show how he does it.
The boy turned in the blankets. Then he opened his eyes. Hi, Papa, he said.
I’m right here.
An hour later they were on the road. He pushed the cart and both he and the boy carried knapsacks. In the knapsacks were essential things.
It works. I like McCarthy’s writing and find his style of short sentences grimly compelling. His approach to punctuation fits with the stark simplicity of his prose. But I also like writers like Flann O’Brien and Charles Dickens and John Irving and…Alice Munro…and…
One size does not fit all and I can’t see myself abandoning quotation marks altogether. However, I have taken a strong dislike to the double quote “like this” and much prefer the elegance of ‘single quotes’. In America publishing houses though I gather that’s considered bordering on the illiterate.
For more on McCarthy’s feelings on the weird little marks that can mess up a page visit Open Culture or view his 2008 interview with Oprah Winfrey
What about you – single quotes, double or none at all?
photo credit: Kat. via photopin cc