Unfortunately, signs like this one are all too common in America, and it is my solemn duty as a writer to stop this madness. Seriously. Let's start by talking about a few purposes of quotation marks:
- Quotation marks are used to designate dialogue.
- Quotation marks can set off (what else?) quotes or famous sayings.
- Quotation marks show sarcasm or designate words that currently have a different meaning in the sentence. (Dumb example: Lindsay was "reading" her textbook when her mom checked to see if she'd turned the TV off.)
Now, here are a few ways not to use quotation marks:
- Don't use quotation marks to set off a random phrase in the middle of a sentence, like the "on a stick" phrase above. Doing this instantly lowers your credibility, and it also inadvertently changes the meaning of your sentence. My favorite example of this is? I worked in the produce section of a grocery store and the manager would put out a sign that said "Fresh" corn. Putting quotation marks around the word fresh makes it appear that the corn is not actually fresh.
- Don't use quotation marks around common phrases in cards or letters. This point is basically the same as the one above, but I laugh really hard when I get cards that say "Happy birthday" or "Thank you" because the person has no idea that by writing quotes they are wishing me a very insincere birthday — or are not grateful at all for that wedding gift. I also love it when I get emails from people that say I really appreciate your "help." So you're implying that I wasn't actually helping you?
- Don't use quotation marks to set off a single word unless you want the sarcastic meaning that comes with it. Those signs you see at the pool that read Showering is "required" before entering the swimming pool? With the quotation marks tacked on, it turns out that showering is really just optional.
I think quotation mark mistakes are easier to spot visually, which is why I was so excited to find this hilarious blog called Unnecessary Quotes that posts pictures of real-life quotation mark fiascos. Check it out — and let me know your thoughts about quotation marks. Do you struggle with knowing when to use them?