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The NOAD reports that '' (two single quotation marks) is a symbol used to mean ditto.

When is it used? Should it be used to replace the same word that appears in the same position but in the previous line?

I always thought it could be a dog.
I then discovered it is all but a ''.

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@Billare - your edit changed the question (incorrectly) and besides that I'm not sure it adds much to visit quotation marks upon questions as I see you've been doing in the past few minutes. –  Ed Guiness Mar 29 '11 at 12:39
    
@Ed Guiness Not using quotation marks changes the semantic meaning of the questions being asked, which is why they recommended as a general usage rule. Additionally, it helps me, and others, discern exactly what is being asked at a glance. –  Uticensis Mar 29 '11 at 12:42
    
@Billare technically you may have a point, do you think in practice it matters? –  Ed Guiness Mar 29 '11 at 12:43
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"Should it be used to replace the same word that appears in the same position but in the previous line?" — Yes, the same position is important. It can even be used to replace more than one word. –  Cerberus Mar 29 '11 at 12:43
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@Billare xkcd.com/386 –  Ed Guiness Mar 29 '11 at 12:50

1 Answer 1

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The ditto mark is a typographic symbol that should be confined to lists, and works best when a non-proportional or monospaced font is used, else it may not appear in the right place.

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Agreed. I use it most in handwriting. –  Cerberus Mar 29 '11 at 12:42
    
It was traditionally used in ledgers, yes? –  MrHen Mar 29 '11 at 13:22
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I've seen it particularly in 19th century censuses, where the address and other data was repeated for the separate lines for individuals. –  Colin Fine Mar 29 '11 at 15:07
    
I wouldn't use quotation marks to mean "ditto the above" except in my own notes or shorthand. With modern word processing and formatting capabilities to do so would be unprofessional and serve to confuse. –  JYelton Mar 29 '11 at 16:10
    
In handwriting, when using it to mean several words are replaced, I use a horizontal line that stretches the span of repeated words with a ditto in the middle: --------''------- –  Kate Gregory Mar 29 '11 at 16:16

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