Quote unquote

Whose back did Lola Openg want scratched? That’s the question I’m left with when I read this on Yahoo Lifestyle:

The writer alleges that Ms. Openg said, “Scratch her back.” Whose back would that be? In fact Ms. Openg asked Alexa, “Scratch my back.” That’s a bit different, isn’t it? And that illustrates what happens when a writer and editor have no idea what a direct quote is.


What makes this question ‘terribly wrong’?

What’s wrong with this question from Yahoo! Shine?

material shine

Well, nothing. Nothing, that is, if the question is “marriage material?” If the entire sentence is a question, then the placement of the question mark is wrong. It belongs after the closing quotation mark.

Seeking a crackerjack writer

Not everything you read on the Interwebs is written by a crackerjack writer and edited by a crackerjack editor. Even articles written by professional writers can contain grammatical gaffes, punctuation problems, and terrible typos. The problems aren’t confined to Yahoo! Shine — it just seems that the site has more than its share of missteps and mishaps.

This mismatch of subject and verb might charitably be called a typo:

Maybe these are typos, too. A hyphen here and there would help clarify the writer’s meaning. And the elimination of an apostrophe would turn the contraction it’s (which means it is or it has) into the possessive pronoun:

And perhaps this is also the result of just pressing the wrong keys, or neglecting to press the Shift key::

If you mean the adjective that’s synonymous with “of excellent quality,” then the word is crackerjack. If you’re writing about the caramel popcorn treat with the surprise in every box, then that would be Cracker Jack, a trademark with two capital letters.

Here’s another pesky little typo masquerading as a grammatical error:

The subject of the sentence is messages and the verb should be seem. When the subject and verb are separated a phrase or two, it might be harder to keep them in sync. Harder, but not impossible.

A crackerjack editor would know that Nielson is misspelled and reality viewers doesn’t need a hyphen:

Finally, there’s this seldom-seen (at least by me) pileup of punctuation:

If a quotation ends in question mark, don’t include a comma, too.

That’s it! I’m off to the local Star Market to pick me up some Cracker Jacks.

Try imitating a writer

Try imitating a competent writer. It’s the sincerest form of flattery. One way to do that is to make sure you get quotations right. Don’t imitate the writer on Yahoo! Shine who wrote this misquote:

and this one:

Someone ran out of quotes about moms

You’d think that there would be enough famous quotations about mothers that you could fill a book — or at least a Web page. Not so. The editors at Yahoo! Events took on the task of finding 15 mom-related quotations and came up short. So, hoping their readers won’t notice (or would be too bored to read them all), found an easy way out with an Irish proverb:

… and a quote by an unknown author:

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