Sunday, March 19, 2017

Editing 101: Should I Quote You On That?

We've talked about this kind of thing before: the facetiously placed quotation marks that cause us to question what we're reading. (Most recently in this post from December.)

With the latest rounds of political finger pointing in the news lately - and the assertion that we're all supposed to simply understand when people are joking or not - I've actually heard government officials say things like "Well, he made those 'air quotes,' didn't he?" and a reporter say "But the tweet was in ALL CAPS - there weren't any quotation marks."

This kind of thing is often in my head, since I spend about eight hours every work day trying to make sure that what I'm working on is as clear and understandable as possible. And, today, I found something that really made me raise an eyebrow.

The headline on an ad was:

** 2 Brookstone "Massagers" for Sale **

Okay. Is that a euphemism? Or are we just supposed to think the "massage" is only one of the possibilities offered by these items?

I decided to read on to find out what, exactly, was being sold. No jumping to conclusions for me - time for research. I backed up a bit.

To start, I took in the context: A very family-friendly website. Seems to me that a massage might be just a massage on a site like that. I read on...

The first item up for sale is specifically described as a "lower-back massager." Sounds pretty clear. No worries. Obviously, the quotation marks were just an oops, right?

But what about item #2?

"The other is good for many sore areas and has a long cord with various speed/mode adjestments." 

(Benefit of the doubt: I'm just going to go ahead and give them "adjestments" as just a typo for "adjustments" - no kind of "jest" intended.)

Not going to lie. At that point, I kind of gave up trying to figure out what was intended. There are way too many ways to read into that description. If I were working on that as an editor, I would just write a query in the margin and send it back to the author. 

As it stands, I'm just going to leave it alone - keeping my hands (and my opinions) to myself.

Whatever it is that's going on, I hope that the buyer asks enough questions that he/she gets what he/she is hoping for. (Kind of like when you're going through the process of hiring an editor.) 

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