September 06, 2007

A Note on Punctuation

I really didn't think I needed to say this, but Mister Bookworm told me a week or so ago that some people think that quotation marks are for emphasis. I didn't believe him, but my boss's boss just sent out an email in which he seemingly wanted to emphasize the phrase "thank you" so he put it in quotation marks, like I did just now. So, his email was like this:

Anyone who asked me to sign a work order today, check that I didn't date it 2006....

"thank you"

Never mind that odd ellipsis there. It's the quotation marks that concern me. One quotation mark could be dismissed as a typo, but two just boggles my mind.

When you put quotation marks around something it means that either you're quoting someone or you don't really mean what you said within the quotation marks. This second application is why some people call them "scare quotes" because if you think someone is mistaken about something, you might put what they say in quotation marks. For example, let's say that I object to the someone referring to Willem de Kooning's paintings as art. I might say something like this: Willem de Kooning's "art" is offensive to the eye. There, you know that I mean that his paintings are not art and, in fact, I probably think they're exactly the opposite.

I'm PRETTY sure my boss's boss is not telling us to all go eff ourselves. See? I emphasize using capital letters. Or sometimes I use italics, but only rarely. But never do we use quotation marks.

Say it with me: quotation marks do not indicate emphasis.

Standard disclaimer when I'm ranting about these things: if there are any punctuation or spelling errors in this post it is because they are either simple typographical errors or I am an ignorant git. In either case, it would be impolite to point them out.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at September 6, 2007 03:18 PM | TrackBack

You might enjoy (or be frustrated by) the "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks, found here:

You might also get a kick out of the related blogs, Literally a Weblog, Lowercase L, and Apostrophe Abuse. These may be found linked from the first.

Posted by: Qwertz at September 6, 2007 03:34 PM

ooo... the "literally" thing gets me.

I hate that I have to emphasize "literally" when I say "literally" so that people know that they should take what I'm saying literally.


Thanks for the links! I will check these out!

Posted by: Flibbert at September 6, 2007 04:16 PM

Steam literally comes out of both my ears because of how angry I get when people abuse the word "literally".

Posted by: Tiberius at September 8, 2007 08:02 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?