Quotation marks really bug me.
Well, not the quotation marks themselves, but the abuse of them.
As a professional proofreader, I see quotation marks thrown about willy-nilly all the time.
Quotation marks can sometimes be used to indicate that a word is being used in a non-typical, ironic, or other special sense. This usage has been coined “scare quotes” and implies the word is being used with a meaning other than the obvious one.
Like any punctuation, however, scare quotes lose their importance and annoy readers if overused — or if used incorrectly. Readers get irritated wasting their time trying to decipher a hidden meaning when there really isn’t one.
Quotation marks are also never used to emphasise a word. Most style manuals suggest placing a word in italics if you wish to place stress on a term. But even italics, if overused, lose their force. Careful writing and proper sentence structure generally make any emphasis clear.
Wendy Wood, proofreader
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