So I saw this:
Naturally, the use of quotation marks around “Best Quality” left me with a lot of “confidence” that these particular tulips would “survive the weekend.” Put another way, it’s as if the florist were saying, “They told me these were the best quality. If the flowers smell like tuna juice and look like curdled goose droppings tomorrow, don’t blame me.”
Quotation marks are brilliant for bringing attention to a word or phrase, and often, that’s exactly what you want; readers’ eyes are drawn to quotes. But at other times, quotation marks are the equivalent of raising your voice an octave while speaking. To declare something to be best quality is fine; to call it “best quality” invites distrust.
In my newspaper days, more than one editor inserted quotation marks into my articles when they weren’t needed, as if “hang out” and “cool” needed to be segregated from the rest of the article for being too edgy, too Fonzie for AP style.*
To declare something to be cool is fine; to declare it to be “cool” is to try to sell its coolness, which is not cool. Fonzie would never say something is “cool.” To Fonzie, everything is just… cool.
Quotation marks used this way can only serve two purposes, neither of which is good:
- They attribute words to someone else, either to give them proper credit or to shirk responsibility for their claims.
- They switch voices, to show the reader that you’re either giving an example or being sarcastic.
So when a casual writer misuses quotation marks, that writer is tainting the meaning of the words, and thus the message the reader receives. Tainting your words with unnecessary punctuation is just… just not cool.
* See how I used Fonzie as an adjective instead of a proper noun? Some would have put that in quotes. Not me, though.
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