Last month, Daniel covered some of the basic rules for using quotation marks. I’d like to point out one of the most common misuses of this piece of punctuation: the quotation mark for emphasis.
As Daniel’s post pointed out, quotation marks can be used to express irony, as in the sentence:
Uncle Joe was really “sad” about it.
The use of the quotation marks indicate that Uncle Joe was not, in fact, sad at all. The quotation marks are a signal to the reader about the true meaning of the sentence.
When the quotation marks are misused, however, they can obscure your meaning. I saw a flyer on a college campus that read:
The person who made the flyer apparently wanted to emphasize “you’re invited,” “all,” and “free,” but the misplaced quotation marks just make it seem as though the writer is being sarcastic.
Be sure to write what you mean. If you want to emphasize specific words or phrases, you should use boldface type or italics. Give the quotation marks a break!
For some humorous examples of quotation mark abuse, visit The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks.