I see an overuse of quotation marks to emphasize words or make them stand out. How appropriate is this? 

Original Post

Hello, WineHawk, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

@WineHawk posted:

I see an overuse of quotation marks to emphasize words or make them stand out. How appropriate is this? 

Could you please provide us with examples of what you deem to be unnecessary uses of quotation marks for us to understand what you are referring to?

These snippets are examples of how the quotation marks are used in addition to actual quotes

  • accuracy compared to simple “standard” lead-time
  • part shortages are “discovered” on the shop floor
  • A red arrow moving away from today or “out” would indicate

I find these quotation marks inappropriate, rather, if the word needs to be emphasized it should be italicized without quotation marks.

As you know, quotation marks can be used -- among other purposes -- to indicate that the words enclosed are used in a special way, sometimes ironic.

@WineHawk posted:
  • accuracy compared to simple “standard” lead-time
  • part shortages are “discovered” on the shop floor
  • A red arrow moving away from today or “out” would indicate

In the absence of further context, I see nothing special about "standard." In the case of "discovered," its use might be ironic, perhaps suggesting the "unexpected" discovery of a fact that was known by everyone. The only justifiable use of the quotation marks, in my opinion, could be that of "out," because it seems to indicate a graphic (paratextual) feature that is not textually related to the meaning of the arrow possibly pointing to the future (moving away from today). Note that, while the reference is temporal, the description of the arrow is locative: when the arrow points outwards, it represents a departure from the present time.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor
@WineHawk posted:

I see an overuse of quotation marks to emphasize words or make them stand out. How appropriate is this? 

[Note: When I composed this, I hadn't seen Gustavo's post immediately above.]

Hello, WineHawk, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

Thank you for providing some examples. Like Gustavo, I think it is generally important to have one or more examples on the table, so that we can all be sure that we are talking about the same grammatical thing.

I, too, often see quotation marks being used, instead of italics, for emphasis. This is an incorrect usage of quotation marks and is one of the hallmarks of amateur writing, in my opinion.

When a word or phrase is placed in quotation marks, the quotation marks traditionally signal that a word is being used in a non-normal or technically imprecise or inaccurate way. This is the opposite of emphasis. Consider:

(1) She was offended by his comment.
(2) She was "offended" by his comment.
(3) She was offended by his comment.

Sentence (1) reports something in an objective way, and (3) emphasizes the key term, indicating that she was seriously offended. Sentence (2), on the other hand, indicates that she only pretended to be offended by his comment.

In spoken English: "She was quote unquote offended by his comment."

Last edited by David, Moderator

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