Crazy Quote Marks

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter

Language Lessons. ... Image via Wikipedia

For some reason—and if you ever figure out the reason, please contact me—there are a lot of people in this country who just love to quote-mark the heck out of words, especially on homemade signs. I know that there are websites dedicated to crazy and unnecessary quote marks, but spotting them is a favorite hobby of my wife and I, so I wanted to make my own small scholarly contribution to this particular field of study.

My leading theory for this phenomenon (other than simple ignorance) is that people use quote marks, whether single (‘) or double (“), to highlight or emphasize certain words. The thing is, quote marks don’t serve as good highlighters or emphasizers; much more appropriate for these tasks would be bolded letters, or italicized even, or writing the emphasized word in a different color from the rest of the surrounding text.More unnecessary quotation marks

As for the proper uses of quote marks, their primary purpose is for use with quoted material—that is, when you’re writing the exact wording of what someone said (“I don’t know how to use quote marks,” John said)—and also when there’s a play on words in a headline or sentence (“Local K-9 Units Helping Take a ‘Bite’ Out of Crime”).

Anyone have any other theories? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. In the meantime, enjoy the head-shaking examples of misused quote marks on this page!

Class dismissed. =)

Especially "Office Supplies" (Portla...

Photo credit: Todd Mecklem

Free bidet

Photo credit: paulmorriss

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