Submitted by markmiodovski on August 3, 2004

Quotation Marks in Parenthetical Statement

When identifying an acronym, I have always simply placed that acronym or abbreviation in parenthesis following the phrase. For example: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). I have now been told to also place quotation marks inside the acronym, for example (”LAX”), but this does not appear correct to me. Is there a rule for when such use of quotation marks is correct?


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Johanna, just so. Thanks. Houston is in Texas, and Texas is in the US, and that means I'm an American. :) For the sake of consistency, I always post using the writing style that is most correct where I live and work.

There are, naturally, cases in which the punctuation goes outside the parens in (so-called) American English. It depends on the punctuation and the situation. I know there's thread around here where we discuss this in some detail...

(wanders off to try to find it)

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GP--I am guessing because the person is American. I'm guessing you find it strange because perhaps you are from Britain, where the period goes outside the quotes.

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In this sentence:

An older airport, Hobby Airport, bears the designation "HOU."

Why would the period be inside the quotation marks?

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My apologies... the quote marks around the second mention of John Aloysius Pilkington-Doe are superfluous. Please ignore.

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There is one area wherein the use of quotes about an acronym in parentheses serves a useful purpose: legal documents.

John Aloysius Pilkington-Doe ("the Claimant") indicates that wherever the phrase "the Claimant" appears in subsequent text in the same document, it refers to none other than "John Aloysius Pilkington-Doe".

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Well, if you're not using quotes around the spelled-out version, why would you quote the acronym? Of course no quotes are necessary. The North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) -- no quotes. Why would you quote it? Is there any figurative meaning involved here? Direct speech? No. An acronym is an exact substitute of its fully spelled equivalent: if you don't quote one, you don't quote the other.

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The Chicago Manual has advice on the use of quote marks in a lot of different situations. This is not oen of them.

The nearest cases where one might use quotes are insider jargon or informal nicknames. For example:

Traditional typesetter assemble individually cast letters ("sorts") into complete pages of text. [note that the Chicago Manual itself uses italics instead of quotes for exactly this kind of thing]

I ordered a bacon double cheeseburger ("the heart-attack special").

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Naturally the presence or absence of the parentheses does not change things. Sorry--should have said that right out.

Here in Houston, for example, the city highways are (frustratingly) referred to by names instead of highway numbers. So we have the Katy Freeway (I-10), the Northwest Freeway (290), the Beltway (8), the Grand Parkway (6), the North Freeway (45), and the Loop (610).

In the preceding sentence it would have been absolutely incorrect to write "... Katy Freeway ("I-10"), the Northwest Freeway ("290") ..." and so forth.

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I can verify that for the airport codes in particular, quotation marks are never used in the way you indicate. You didn't just up and decide to call the airport LAX--that is one of its official names. The only reason you would ever use quotes is if you were specifically referring to the acronyms as examples, for example:

Although Houston Intercontinental Arport is the major airport in the city, its three-letter code is not "HOU," but "IAH." An older airport, Hobby Airport, bears the designation "HOU."

Quote marks aren't even absolutely necessary then. It would be OK to write, for example:

He told me that the three-letter code for Houston Intercontinental Airport is IAH.

Secretaries' honor. :)

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