Quotes Around Phrases Matter

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The American Psychological Association (APA) declared recently that “reparative therapy” should be avoided. In other words, trying to help clients change their sexual orientation is no longer acceptable.

Although this shouldn’t be earth shattering, it is a big deal for the APA. They appointed a committee in 2007 to review 83 studies in peer-reviewed English-language journal srticles from 1983 to 2007 on this subject.

As an openly gay man, I obviously agree that trying to change my sexual orientation is folly. What I’m a bit sensitized to in this coverage is how this outcome is characterized.

Quotes around phrases matter, especially in headlines but also in text. For example, “Senate reaches deal on $2B ‘clunkers’ refill” was the recent headline of an article by The Associated Press (AP) and in the text the phrase “cash for clunkers” was in quotes to describe the government program.

By comparison, “Psychologists repudiate gay-to-straight therapy” was the headline of an AP article about the APA decision. Why wasn’t “gay-to-straight” in quotes just like “cash for clunkers”?

Kudos to CBS News for understanding the distinction. “No Evidence for ‘Gay-to-Straight’ Therapy” was their headline. They put quotes around “Gay-to-Straight” because they knew the phrase deserved it.

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