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Would exchanging quotation marks in the German tradition for conventional English quotation marks be considered a constructive edit on English Language & Usage?

This is what I mean by German style quotation marks:

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit ut aliquam.“

The opening quotation marks sit near the baseline. The closing marks ascend. I've seen this German style a few times while making other edits and wasn't sure whether to change it.

It's only on this site that I've encountered this style used with modern English. If there is another name for it I am unaware of it. I'm going by what I read in researching whether it had some special significance (I found none.)

UPDATE: The comments and answers so far persuade me to change this quotation style when it is encountered while submitting other substantive edits. As that's based on only about a day's opportunity to respond though I've also posted an answer that calls for not changing them. If there is a case to be made for the opposite position, or to agree with that case, you can make use of that answer.


This question is on topic for Meta:

  • "Meta is for English Language & Usage Stack Exchange users to communicate with each other about English Language & Usage Stack Exchange (asking questions about how the websites work, or about policies and community decisions.) [Emphasis added]

This question is distinct from Formatting a Quote:

  • That question primarily considers the appropriate instances to use italics or "quotation marks." This question takes on the case when quotation marks are definitely to be used, but must they be changed to "these" or remain „those“ ― perhaps both are acceptable, but one is strongly preferred. Perhaps not.

  • Further that question points out that choosing between conventions which are common in English is largely a subjective preference. This discussion considers an uncommon practice that―as far as I know―comes primarily from a different language. It is intelligible in English, but may not be the best practice for a site devoted to English language and usage.

This question is distinct from Single vs Double Quotations:

  • That question does not touch at all on German style quoting. It considers only whether it's constructive to favor one common English convention for setting apart words used as words, etc, over another widely used convention (e.g. American, British, or Canadian). The German style is...
    • encountered for quoting passages from other work;
    • not common in any English style―or at least so far no one has argued that it is.
  • 4
    Possible duplicate of Formatting a Quote. Personally, I would think this unhelpful; but I wouldn't edit 'German quotes' out either. As the other question implies, formatting is largely a personal choice. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Mar 26 at 9:27
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    I found the German style jarring as a reader, at least upon first encountering it. Since it's not common it can make a reader wonder if the writer meant to get across some special meaning. – Trevor Reid Mar 26 at 9:46
  • @TimLymington Thanks for the pointer. OP has been edited to explain the distinction. – Trevor Reid Mar 26 at 9:56
  • I also find it jarring, but is it incorrect as writing 'psuedo-' or a style choice between 'color; and 'colour'? OK, it's not correct for English. But underlying all this is the question "Should I edit a question/answer if the only thing I'm changing is a single character?". Usually the answer is 'no'. – Mitch Mar 26 at 13:20
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    Related: english.meta.stackexchange.com/q/2183/49890 in which the question is "Should we change BrE quotation marks to AmE quotation marks?" and the answer is "No." – shoover Mar 26 at 13:29
  • That premise does not underlie this question @Mitch. The question is whether it's a constructive change to make, not whether it's substantive enough to warrant a change on its own. For example, If one makes a dozen spelling corrections, should one at the same time change the German quotes? The insubstantiality of the quotation marks by themselves actually heightens the importance of this decision―as there may not be an occasion to revisit the work. And the quotes alone are not enough to call for that visit. – Trevor Reid Mar 26 at 17:45
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    @TrevorReid Yes, it should be changed to English-style quotes. – Mitch Mar 26 at 17:59
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    Whoever is voting to close this as a duplicate, it is not a duplicate of "Formatting a quote" or of "Single vs Double Quotations". It is about German style quoting which is not touched on in those other questions. – Mitch Mar 26 at 18:02
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    The underlying question is how much to respect the personal preferences and idiosyncracies of the original author. In my view, they should be respected very highly. – Michael Kay Mar 27 at 8:43
  • Is your question only for what is done here in these forums? Or in general, in the real world? – Lambie Mar 27 at 13:21
  • This question (on Meta) concerns practice on English Language & Usage only @Lambie. Now that you mention I will consider an SE question regarding real world practice. I think it would be most topical for writing.stackexchange.com (BETA) – Trevor Reid Mar 27 at 14:43
  • It makes a huge difference. In any event, a quote from a foreign language on these sites is just that, so why would one change the punctuation? French uses « » for "...". Why would I change that? It makes no sense.... – Lambie Mar 27 at 14:53
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    @Lambie Because this question is not about quotations from a foreign language. I am asking what to do when encountering German style quotes with English passages. I've come across it about a half dozen times in a few days of editing. I've yet to come across a direct quote in any other language―though I am sure that's merely an accident of timing. – Trevor Reid Mar 27 at 16:30
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    @TrevorReid I agreed with YOU. :) I only added more stuff. The answer chosen does not make sense. And obviously, if those German quotes are there in English, the poster did not do their job properly. Otherwise, where the hell would they come from?? :) – Lambie Mar 27 at 17:11
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In and of itself, yes it is constructive. The "German" quotation mark style is not used in any version of English that I know of.

However, it's not a substantive edit. If there are other formatting issues, then go ahead and make the edit, including the quotes. If that's the only issue, it's not worth it.

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    Yes, but if the quote is in German, why would you change it? – Lambie Mar 27 at 14:57
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    @Lambie - Good point If the quote is in German, then I think the German style formatting makes sense, and I would see no reason to change it. However, this meta question states "It's only on this site that I've encountered this style used with modern English." From this I inferred that the quote is in English. – AndyT Mar 27 at 16:00
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    If the quote is in English, then the German punctuation marks are wrong. – Lambie Mar 27 at 16:05
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    The language of the text is irrelevant to the style used to present it. Only if the style itself is being directly referenced would the particular quotation marks be preserved. (The vast majority of all fiction and nonfiction I've read uses the book's native quotation style when presenting foreign dialogue or phrases spoken by characters or people.) When a US-based book is published in the UK, even the spelling of certain words is changed in order to match that of the other country. (And vice-versa.) And most style guides say that this change in spelling is acceptable with quotes too. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Mar 29 at 16:56
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    Having said that, if you are editing somebody else's post, then it should be up to them how they want to present it. It's a stylistic choice, and I would not change their quoting style. (In the same sense that I would not change somebody else's use of color to colour, or vice-versa.) It's only if I quote foreign-language text that I would use North American quotation marks. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Mar 29 at 17:02
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Do not change "German" quotation mark style in the course of making other substantive edits.


Note: This answer is here to provide a quick way to register disagreement with the selected answer (i.e. change em).

  • It's not really about substantive versus non-substantive: it's about citing a foreign language quote correctly. You either translate or you stet it (proofreading term) for leave as is. So, plus 1 here. If you look at the accepted answer, it reads: "German style quotation marks are not used in any version of English I know." Exactly, and quoting German is not quoting English! – Lambie Mar 27 at 14:59
  • No. This question has nothing to do with citing foreign language works. See OP―"It's only on this site that I've encountered this style used with modern English." – Trevor Reid Mar 27 at 16:34
  • Never mind, you did not understand me. – Lambie Mar 27 at 17:10

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