The Washington Post seems to have made another error while graphically illustrating copy editors’ marks. (This is the second time this summer that the paper has illustrated editors’ marks. Here’s the other: https://thefriendlystickler.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/irony-illustrated/.)
This time, the problem is single quotation marks where double quotation marks should be.
Double quotation marks are called for when we are writing a sentence and we want to refer to a word rather than use it functionally.
Single quotation marks are used in headlines. But this graphic depiction of a 20-word complete sentence with punctuation does not look like a headline to me.
That’s not a headline, is it?
The Post used its graphic (below) to illustrate a profile of David Minthorn, the grammar and style expert at the Associated Press. According to the article, Mr. Minthorn’s distilled wisdom is the AP Stylebook, the highly regarded and only guidebook for newspaper correspondents and editors. Mr. Minthorn and two colleagues are the Stylebook’s editors. For the past four years, Mr. Minthorn has also been the author of AP’s “Ask the Editor” feature at APStylebook.com.
The AP Stylebook calls for double quotation marks. The Chicago Manual of Style does too, when italics can’t be used. (Chicago prefers italics in usage like this, but acknowledges that, in some electronic environments, quotation marks may be more portable or otherwise practical than italics. That refers to correspondents’ transmission of news stories. The transmission can’t handle italics. It’s why AP style calls for quotation marks instead of italics.) Neither guide recommends that single quotes be used.
The Post made the blunder while discussing the very style guide that would have instructed it to use double quotation marks.
Er, unless that’s a headline.