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Checking for Mismatched Quotation Marks

When writing a term paper, research paper, or post-graduate thesis, one of the most common errors is "mismatched" quotation marks....
There is a very simple way to verify that a document has “matching” quotation marks....
After you have completed your document, position the cursor at the very beginning of the text (that is, move the cursor in front of the first word on the first page and click to “position” it)....
Open Find/Replace (or Search/Replace, whatever is applicable to your Word software)....
- the WritersSoftware team

Checking for Mismatched Quotation Marks

—or—

How To Make Sure that Every Opening Quotation Mark Has an Ending Quotation Mark

When writing a term paper, research paper, or post-graduate thesis, one of the most common errors is "mismatched" quotation marks. That is, an opening (beginning) quotation mark will not have a closing (ending) quotation mark, or vice versa. It is a hard error to spot while proofreading, and your computer's spellchecker will not find this type of error.

There is a very simple way to verify that a document has “matching” quotation marks.

After you have completed your document, position the cursor at the very beginning of the text (that is, move the cursor in front of the first word on the first page and click to “position” it).

  1. Open Find/Replace (or Search/Replace, whatever is applicable to your Word software).

  2. In the “Find” field, key in a double quote mark (shift key and the "/' key).

  3. In the “Replace” field, key in the same thing (so that both fields show ").

  4. Hit “Replace All” (or whatever selection you have for making a global correction to a document). You should then see the number of replacements that were made.

  5. If an odd number shows up after all the replacements are made, then somewhere in the transcript there is an “unmatched” quotation mark.

If you do get an odd number of replacements, then switch to “Find” only, and begin to hit “Find Next” repeatedly so that the computer stops on each opening or closing quote mark. As the computer highlights each quotation mark, verify that it is matched, i.e., that every opening quotation mark has a corresponding closing quotation mark (and vice versa).

You need to pay close attention to this process, otherwise, you are likely to “Find Next” before you realize that the computer found a closing quote mark before it found an opening quote mark.

Eventually, as you review the document, you will either come across an opening quote mark for which there is no closing quote mark (that is, the computer will find an opening quote mark, and then the very next one that it finds will also be an opening quote mark), or vice versa.

Once you have inserted the missing quote mark, you should do the “Find/Replace” steps again, to verify that the computer now shows an even number of replacements.

Please note that this is not a fail-safe procedure because it is possible that you have two unmatched pairs of quote marks, but it is a tool that you can use to help prevent an easy mistake.

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About the Author: 

Jan K., The Proofer is freelance proofreader and copyeditor. Visit http://www.janktheproofer.com/ for more information about Jan’s services; http://work-at-home.janktheproofer.com/ for work at home articles and free printables; and for work at home moms, visit Jan’s sister site http://work-at-home.momsbreak.com/ for articles, free printables, and work at home T-shirts and other fun products.

© Copyright 2005 All rights reserved.

jkproof@bellsouth.net

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