How and When To Use Inverted Commas On GAMSAT Section 2

Here’s a handy trick and an easy way to slightly confuse any examiner reading your essay: When you’re writing just ‘sometimes’ put words inside single inverted commas. It’s important to do this as ‘often’ as possible in ‘order’ to have the optimally confusing effect.

Contraindications: This is actually a mistake. Don’t do this. It will definitely lose you marks and you might already even be doing it without realising because it’s such a common mistake in written communication.

You don’t get marks for your argument if your argument isn’t understood. In an examination of communication skills it’s important not to let your reader experience feeling confused at any point. Feeling confused will validate any examiner’s inclination to deduct marks for clarity of communication, so really we want to avoid confusing our readers at all costs. From essays that have been sent to me by prospective GAMSAT students I have noticed a great amount of confusion surrounding the use and misuse of inverted commas.

Using ‘ ‘ around a word means it means something other than what it means. In other words, if x = x then ‘x’ = x + y (where y is context by reference to an earlier event)

Dog means what it means. You read the word dog you probably think of the common furry animal.

‘Dog’, on the otherhand, means … not quite a dog. Or not just a dog. It’s a ‘dog’.

Jerry has a ‘dog’.
If someone said this aloud and put the bunny-ears finger hands movement when they said ‘dog’ you’d be like ‘what’s up with the dog?’ Putting ‘ ‘ around a thing raises a question about it. In the absence of any other information, it suggests to the reader that something is abnormal about the expression contained within ‘these things’. Jerry’s ‘dog’ may not be a normal dog.*

*Jerry’s ‘dog’ is actually just a really fat cat that behaves like a dog.

“ “ Double inverted commas are slightly different:

“Something written inside these double-inverted commas has been taken word-for-word from another source”

“ “ double commas could in short be considered more serious. You only use them to show you’ve taken words verbatim from another place. Or like if John said something, then “This is exactly what John said”.

‘These single commas merely refer to these words having existed elsewhere first’

Let’s imagine for a moment that John said something. When he spoke he said that beavers are not really beavers at all, but are in fact, secretly, horses in disguise. Now if later on we are chatting and we notice a possible reference to this statement of John’s, we might use single inverted commas to refer back to it and in doing so communicate a different meaning.
I saw some beavers the other day. But if I say I saw some ‘beavers’ the other day it adds a layer of ambiguity to my claim. I could instead be saying I saw some horses. This message will be successfully conveyed to you if you also understand, as I do, that all beavers are actually horses in disguise.

Sometimes when you’re writing you will just put things in inverted commas as a way to debate their meaning. Like if you were skeptical about the idea of something existing you might refer to it in inverted commas… Skeptical Journalists might write ‘Bigfoot’ within inverted commas in order to identify that it the word is a reference to a name given to an unverified thing that may or may not be real in and of itself. The effect of inverted commas is subtle, but they are far from inert.

Indications (when to use) :

1) If you use a word early on in your essay and express some idea about it that you’d like to make direct reference to.
Eg. I think Teresa Plank’s campaign was a hopeless shambles and I hate the idea of even calling it a campaign. To call that a campaign is an insult to all the other campaigns in existence. Teresa Plank’s ‘campaign’ should be forgotten.

2) If you want to make reference to just part of a given quote.
Eg. Quote: “To err is human, to forgive divine”
Although I can’t argue with the second half of the comment, I find it hard to get my head around how ‘To err is human’. What kind of ‘human’ is the author imagining?

‘ ‘ Single inverted commas can be very helpful on the GAMSAT in the above way to show that you are directly referring to the quote and clearly responding to it. There is little value in creative usage of inverted commas on the GAMSAT and you should probably not bother with them outside of these two scenarios.