Monday, May 10, 2004

The danger of single-word quotes

A blogger wonders about punctuation in this Australia Broadcasting Corp. headline:
Bush 'sorry' for Iraqi prison abuse
Why are there quotes around sorry? He says:
Bush did use the word “sorry,” but to take it out of context and put it between quotation marks casts “doubt on the [word’s] sincerity … [making] something kind of snide and sinister out of something simple and straightforward.” (As Dave Eggers wrote of a similar situation.)
He points out that the Washington Post went another route, "realising that there was no way to use 'sorry' in a headline without either (a) vouching for its sincerity at A1 headline scale or (b) making it appear insincere—sensibly avoided the word entirely."

Also interesting is a comment after the entry, making the argument that it is OK for the word to be in quotes because
Bush apologised for the hurt that was felt. He did not actually apologise for any actions -- of himself, Rummy, or anyone under him in the chain of command. His was the apology of someone cocky and self-assured, who says he's sorry that you felt bad when he insulted you, but does not apologise for the insult itself, or the fact that it came from him.
And that, folks, is a textbook example of why single-word quotes should be avoided.


At 5:08 PM, May 16, 2004, Blogger Paul said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5:11 PM, May 16, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's start again. In the context of an Australian audience that single word is significant, because our Prime Misnister has refused to use it terms of racial reconciliation. In this context the ABC use would imply sincerity from Mr Bush.


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