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.

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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