WHEN I BECOME DICTATOR of the United States (one of my recurring nonsexual fantasies), I shall instantly and by executive order establish a ruthless constabulary known as the Quote Police. The QP, as they will be called, will of course have their own building in Washington (maybe I'll rename the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building and give it to

them) and, in due course, a television series modeled on their exploits, both real and fictional. Their job will be to enforce the proper use of quotation marks. I know, I know. But dictators have to be brutal.

The uniformed branch of the Quote Police will engage in surprise and, in some cases, violent raids on establishments that abuse quotation marks. These police, whose shoulder patches of maroon quotation marks on a black background will strike fear into the hearts of all quote abusers, will, without benefit of search warrant or even knocking (and none of this Miranda nonsense afterward, either), burst into places such as restaurants where the menu says, "The chef recommends."

Who is being quoted here? The Quote Police will demand to know that. They will ask why there are quotation marks around "Home Cooking" (an attempt at sarcasm, perhaps?) or such phrases as "Soup of the Day." A force that will be known for its violent methods, the Quote Police will also burst into parking garages and rip down signs that read "Not Responsible for Articles Left in Car." Never mind that signs renouncing responsibility ("Ride at Your Own Risk") are legally unenforceable -- and when I am dictator will be illegal -- they are also, and more important, dispunctuational as well. We all know, beyond any doubt, that not since time immemorial has anyone uttered the phrase "Early Bird Special -- In by 7, Out by 4, $6.50." You can look it up.

It will be my intention as dictator to strike fear into the hearts of those oafs and scoundrels who either do not know the proper use of quotation marks or knowingly abuse them. Thus, for instance, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. would be asked who, precisely, and when, exactly, someone said, "I love what you do for me," followed by the word Toyota. Since a company cannot speak, and since in this case if it could it would speak in Japanese, the quotation marks would have to be removed from the phrase or -- I am not kidding -- Toyota would be prohibited from selling any more cars in the United States.

Lest my Quote Police be accused of Japan-bashing or something similar, I would have them take the same harsh measures against something called Capital Growth Management (One International Place, Boston, Mass.), whose magazine ad consists of nothing more than the phrase "The quintessence of investment success is a conscious, consistent need to win."

Needless to say, no attribution is given for this quote, and, really, that's not surprising. Otherwise, someone might be asked what the difference is between the essence of the success and the "quintessence of success" and whether, while we're at it, there is such a thing as an unconscious need to win. I hasten to add, though, that for the most part the Quote Police will not do the work of the Redundancy Police, who in their first year of operation will be fully taxed just stamping out such phrases as future plans, past history, new innovation, in my own mind and past experience. Whole editions of The Washington Post may never reach the reader.

At my instruction, the Quote Police will also deal, and deal harshly, with those persons or organizations who put quotation marks around statements attributed to non-human beings. I grant you this practice may not be, strictly speaking, dispunctuational, but it grates on me -- and if you can't outlaw what grates on you when you're dictator, what then is the use of being dictator? And so, out of whim or whatever, I would ban such things as the talking auto engine in certain Amoco ads. " 'How you drive can reduce my gas consumption,' " the ad says. My gas consumption? Come now!

My dictatorial intentions may strike those of you who are not ACLU-minded as innocuous and, in a punctuational sense, downright wholesome. Let me assure you, however, that I have my sinister side. The Quote Police will have their plainclothes division. Non-uniformed QPs will circulate through crowded restaurants and singles bars, ever alert for people who use two fingers on either hand to signify quotation marks when what they intend is irony.

The inability to communicate an ironic statement without resorting to this quote/unquote nonsense is, really, symptomatic of the dire state of conversation in general. Americans must once again learn to communicate irony, paradox, emphasis and, even, sarcasm through voice inflection and the clever manipulation of words. This is what Ronald Reagan meant by values. The Quote Police will enforce them.

Finally, a word of warning to journalists. As dictator, I will retain affection for journalism and promise never to investigate a leak. But I will be ruthless about quotes. Where they are abridged, this will be indicated by an ellipsis, thus: . . . Where a word is changed to enhance meaning, the new word will be put in brackets, thus: {}. Under no circumstance, especially in New Yorker pieces by Janet Malcolm, will quotes be changed. The penalty, I think, will be death.

You may quote me.