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Punctuation Series: How to Edit Foreign Quotation Marks


Have you ever tried to read a book in a foreign language? Perhaps some of you have. I’ve tried reading Spanish and German, and when I didn’t know either language, I got all turned around by how they used quotation marks. So, to quotation mark or not to quotation mark, that is the question. More like, going into the quirky, fun side of the quotation mark!

I’ll be referring to The Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition, chapter six.

Since this element of grammar has so much to say (whoever knew there was so much to say about quotation marks?), I’ll touch on the highlights, and also give a glimpse into quotation  marks for foreign language, too. And since so many of our books are being published in different languages, I thought this would be super cool to talk about!

Using quotation marks with other punctuation in the text. (Chicago Manual of Style 6.114).

  • Yeah, it can get tricky sometimes, especially when our fingers are typing faster than we can keep up.
  • So, in using quotation marks with commas, we know that the quotation marks are  generally placed *outside of commas, question marks, exclamation points, but *inside colons and semicolons.
  • But what about when foreign language is involved?

Using “smart” quotation marks (Chicago Manual of Style 6.115).

  • Call me a smarty pants, but it’s universally acknowledged in the professional publishing sphere that published works should use “smart” quotation marks. Because we’re smart. I really think it has to do with the way this punctuation looks: curly in form, instead of straight typewriter-quotation marks. So, curly quotes it is for “smart” writers. Example: “ ”, not ʺ.
  • The above information is for the English language. 😊 Now do you want to know what it’s like for French? Well, let’s hop on over to Chicago 11.29 and following!
  • French. For quotation marks, the French use guillemets to surround whatever needs to be in quotes. Like this: « ».
  • So, an example sentence: « Oui, madam » . Now, for quotations within quotations, regular double quotation marks are used (like this, “example text”).
  • However, and this gets trickier, but I think it’s pretty cool! In dialogue, the guillemets are replaced with em dashes. So, for example, He said, — Oui, madam.
  • German. (Chicago 11.41!) Depending where your book is published in Europe, punctuation marks take different forms. Quite literally.
  • Whereas the French use guillemets, the Germans use split-level inverted quotation marks; or, if you’re in Switzerland, your book’s dialogue will use guillemets.
  • Here’s an example of the split-level quotation marks for German prose: „Guten Tag!“

So the next time your book’s being published in French or German, you’ll know a bit about what to expect where quotation marks are involved.

How’s that for quotation marks within the foreign text? I hope you enjoyed it!

Join me in 2020 to discuss what it means to create the foundation of your manuscript, whether it be fiction or nonfiction.  Think of it as the business, foundational basics for jumpstarting your manuscript and ensure you have crafted the very best manuscript to wow editors and agents….

Conversation Time!!

Please take a minute and join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

Do you read any foreign languages? Which books have you enjoyed?

2 thoughts on “Punctuation Series: How to Edit Foreign Quotation Marks

  1. Tisha,

    I just wanted to share that this series has been most beneficial for me, especially when I’m writing book reviews and letters at work.

    As a psychology major in college, I learned the APA writing guidelines; your emails have been a welcome refresher on grammar and punctuation.

    Thank you!

    Laura Shuck

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Laura, I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the posts! Thank you so much for the kind words. We’ll try to keep you well stocked with grammar emails! All the best to you in your work!

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