Punctuation Q: single v. double quotes

The Gregg Reference Manual is a grammar bible to me, but I can’t find the answer to my question there.

I just saw a line like this in a book I am reading:

“Sure, you were,” said ‘Herm The Germ.’

The first phrase is a direct quotation, the second is intended to highlight the person’s unorthodox or slang name, I think. But is this the proper use of double/single quotes? They are not nested. Shouldn’t it be written like this?

“Sure, you were,” said “Herm The Germ.”

In that case, I think it helps to make clear that Herm The Germ is not a continuation of the quoted text.

What helps to make clear? Changing quotes? Not changing quotes? Why? What rule are you referring to?

IMHO, using single quotes around Herm The Germ helps to make it clear that Herm The Germ is not a continuation of the quote (“Sure, you were”).

Agreed^^^ and I’d add that quote marks are evolving rapidly because of online communication.

I don’t see an ambiguity here. Nothing indicates to me that what comes after “said” is being said, but is the name of the speaker.

If the sentence read this way, would you still think “Herman” is part of the first quote? I don’t think so.

“Sure, you were,” said Herman.

I’m not quoting from an online book.

Didn’t mean to imply you were, just that printed paper books that are current today may not be in 10 years.
Today’s rules are in flux but we are too deep in it to see it very often. Quotes are one example. There’s a thread about ‘thru’ vs ‘through’, same concept.

“Sure, you were,” said ‘Herm The Germ’.:o

So why did you use single quotes instead of double? Is there a rule about this? Is it entirely optional?

The rules go like this:
Are you a native speaker of American English? If so, use double quotes, except in the case of quoting within a quote. Nested quotes take single quote marks.

Are you British? Use single quotes, if you must, for everything.

Being British, I hold to the old school, than which there is none better: double quotes for all speech; single quotes for all else.

I agree it’s better to use double quotes, but your rules of grammar allow you to use single quotes where Americans are not supposed to, which is what I meant by “if you must.”

It’s a good start, but an incomplete rule if you want to nitpick, and I usually do.

Nested quotes should alternate between single and double, in case you are quoting a quoter who’s quoting a quoter, etc. John Barth made fun and excessive use of this in one of this books – Lost in the Funhouse, where one line went

(That’s a double, a single, a double, a single and a double, and Barth isn’t done yet. It gets worse.)

So this is a Brit/American thing? The book that made me start this thread was published in Florida and written by an American author who happens to live a few miles from me, but his background might be British. I’ll ask him next chance I get.

Apparently so — although some people in both countries choose which they prefer; there’s no way of enforcing any rule on a permanent basis by fiat ( and that applies to life ) — however, I can only repeat what I may have said earlier on the board: I have never seen a British ( or American ) novel from before 1960 that used single quotes for dialogue.

As far as I can make out some British publishers in the 1980s or '90s went nuts and decided to use the single mark thing. Possibly due to computerisation or something. This Australian gentleman states it is only the publishers here, not the universities. But it looks kinda silly. British publishers don’t get no respect any more

This is one of those things that many Americans seem to believe about Britain, but that has little basis in fact.

It may have become more widespread around the 1980s (though I have the impression it was earlier), but H W Fowler recommended the style as early as 1908, in The King’s English. As a bonus, the part that I’ve put in bold answers the OP’s question (or, at least, gives the rationale for that particular style choice).

(You can read the paragraph in context here)

The way you have it written would, indeed, be the conventional approach.

But it’s really a stylistic decision. I’ve seen other authors do this (though the names escape me) where the non-quotational use of quotation marks are relegated to single quote marks, while actual quotations get double quotes. (Plus there are specialized uses of single quotes in some academic subjects to set off words with special meanings, or in linguists when a definition follows a word.) As long as the use is consistent, it’s fine.