Scare Quotes Exercise (614)

For each sentence, determine whether the quotation marks are necessary to clarify the sense of the enclosed word or phrase.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: As a leader, I prefer not to "fight the system" but to use and learn from what is there and available to solve problem situations.
Correct : As a leader, I prefer not to fight the system but to use and learn from what is there and available to solve problem situations.

The down-to-earth metaphor "fight the system" requires no emphasis to call attention to its idiomatic use.

2.
Original: If anything, "homeland security" has made us less secure than ever.
Correct : If anything, "homeland security" has made us less secure than ever.

When quotation marks are employed as a substitute for "so-called" to call attention to the dubiousness of the term, they helpfully emphasize irony or sarcasm.

3.
Original: I need my "space" to energize.
Correct : I need my space to energize.

Readers are unlikely to assume that "space" is being used literally here to refer to a static area or to a portion of the universe—it’s a reference to an emotional buffer, not a physical expanse—so scare quotes are unnecessary.

4.
Original: Often, teacher leaders assume that "authority" is something that comes only from a formal role.
Correct : Often, teacher leaders assume that authority is something that comes only from a formal role.

The reference to the concept of authority needs no special emphasis.

5.
Original: Establishing milestones can also help teams be clear about what are sometimes called "interdependencies."
Correct : Establishing milestones can also help teams be clear about what are sometimes called interdependencies.

A word being introduced and/or defined does not require emphasis unless the reference is to the word itself, not to the concept of the word (as in "How do you spell ‘interdependencies’?"). Usually, however, a word used as a word, as in the example in parentheses here, is italicized. (This quiz field doesn’t allow italicization, so quotation marks are used in this case.)

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