Wednesday, November 5, 2014
A contributor sent in this photo, suspicious of what was on the menu in this restaurant. Is it, in fact, serving ribs? If not, what is it serving to customers who order ribs?
Though you'll often see them used this way (The Blog of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks is devoted to this error), quotation marks are not intended to provide emphasis -- and using them for emphasis can lead to embarrassing miscommunication.
Why? Because quotation marks are also used to indicate sarcasm -- much like "air quotes" do in verbal communication.
In the photo above, the restaurateur intends to communicate that s/he serves the best ribs in town -- but his/her quotation marks suggest s/he's serving something other than ribs.
In the same way, we have to wonder:
Is this Director really acting?
And what really happens to you if you bring a re-usable mug for your coffee?
If you want your readers to take your message at face value, don't use quotation marks for emphasis.