Photo by James Lumb
Looking over the work of a proofreader the other day, I saw that she had marked a place where the quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation were incorrect. Single quotation marks were needed for the inner quote, but double quotation marks appeared. This was my fault; I had run a global search-and-replace to change British punctuation (single quotation marks) to American (double), and I had forgotten about the quotes within quotes. In the original version, outer quotations were in single quotes, and inner quotations were in double quotes. Now, thanks to me, all were double.
I was aghast. There were a lot of them. And the MS was huge. And it was important. Okay—it was the Iliad. With a print run in the tens of thousands of copies. And I was the one who had insisted on changing the punctuation. (Why hadn’t I let well enough alone? Well, because we’re an American publisher. And Richmond Lattimore was an American, for pity’s sake. And this was our first update in sixty years. And I wanted to . . . contribute.)
The proofreader seemed to have done an excellent job, but what if she had missed some? Some of the outer quotations were pages long, and the inner ones could be lengthy as well—it would be easy to lose track of which was which. How the heck was I going to check this without reading the entire poem?
Assume that this is your problem. You have the MS Word document you sent to the typesetter (a single file). How would you locate the inner quotations?
I’ll tell you next week what I did. I’m not confident that it was the most efficient solution, but it took only a few minutes (not counting the hour I spent working on something else and thinking about it before I figured it out). Feel free to share your ideas below. I’m hoping we’ll all learn something.