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As you know, the American edition of Shady Characters was published on September 24th — which is, of course, National Punctuation Day. In honour of this auspicious event (National Punctuation Day that is, not the book’s publication), Jason Santa Maria, the polymath founder of Editorially and A Book Apart, launched a simple website to promote Smart Quotes for Smart People. As Jason succinctly explains:
"Don't be dumb." “You’re smart!” […] “Smart quotes,” the correct quotation marks and apostrophes, are curly or sloped. "Dumb quotes," or straight quotes, are a vestigial constraint from typewriters when using one key for two different marks helped save space on a keyboard.
Jason’s site provides a helpful primer on quotation marks and, er, primes and where they should be used, along with a guide as to how to input them. And he rightly points the finger at the typewriter as the villain behind the rise of the dumb quote; as we’ve explored here before, the “Great Typewriter Squeeze” marked the beginning of the end for more than a few previously healthy typographic marks. Take a look!
In other news, James Mosley at Typefoundry casts a sceptical eye over the history of the @, or ‘commercial at’. Shady Characters has, of course, discussed this mark before, but James’s article goes into much greater detail; though he doesn’t explicitly say so, it appears that the ‘@’ symbol started life as a simple abbreviation for any word beginning with the letter a before assuming its more mercantile aspect. James’s post is well worth a read, as is his blog in general.
Lastly, Shady Characters the book has attracted a few more reviews: Jonathon Owen reviewed it for his blog, Arrant Pedantry; Marcus Berkmann did the honours for The Spectator, and Jon Day wrote about it for The Daily Telegraph.
Also with regard to the book, Penguin’s young adult book site Spinebreakers is putting together a Q&A with yours truly. If any of Shady Characters’ younger readers would like to find out more about me or about the book, send your questions to Spinebreakers and I’ll do my best to answer.
Thanks for reading!