Writers are often picked on for being grammar Nazis or calling out people for misspelling common words. While those things have never bothered me to the point of sheer rage (I mean, unless it occurs several times in a published novel), there is one tiny abuse of writing that is akin to nails on a chalkboard for me. We’re long overdue for a rant about my biggest writing pet peeve: the abuse and overuse of quotation marks.
This isn’t one that’s normally talked about in writing circles, or at least one I’ve come across online. But, to be honest, it’s an epidemic.
I can’t count the number of times on a daily basis (in a professional format, no less) that I see quotation marks around random words for emphasis. For example:
The dress is not “washable”. It must be dry-cleaned.
Why? Just why? *Facepalm*
It just doesn’t make any sense to add quotation marks here. You can say the same thing by leaving it as: The dress is not washable. It must be dry-cleaned.
Another example would be if the writer is trying to place emphasis on a number, so they write:
Happy “30th” anniversary, Janet and Marty!
Here, it looks like the writer is skeptical about it actually being 30 years, like there may have been some guesstimation going on there or something.
You see, the way I interpret quotation marks around words or phrases that aren’t actually quoting anything is to imagine someone doing the finger quote gesture when saying it aloud. For the most part, when someone does finger quotes around a word/phrase they’re saying, it implies skepticism.
For example, in a lot of teen movies, a character will say they’re going to the library, when in fact they’re sneaking off to do something their parents wouldn’t approve of instead. So, the next day, their friend might say, “So, Tommy, how was the ‘library’?” Otherwise, a sarcastic implication that Tommy didn’t go to the library.
I know, it’s a harmless mistake, but when you begin to notice it on a daily basis, it’s frustrating!
Disclaimer: If you use quotation marks in this way, I have nothing against you personally. This is an opinion post, so my thoughts are not the gospel, and I don’t consider myself the ultimate authority on writing. 🙂
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What is your biggest writing pet peeve? Does the abuse of quotation marks rack your nerves too? Let me know in the comments!
Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.