Grammar Tip #7: Avoid “excessive” and “inappropriate” use of “quotation marks”

Quotation marks can be used for a number of purposes. They can indicate dialogue, a word used as a word (see Tip #6), slang, epithets or nicknames, titles, or, my favourite, irony. Like so:

Amy said, “Please come with me to the coronation, dearest.”

Remember when “depilation” was a dirty word in our crowd of lesbian feminists?

Where I come from, we call notebooks “scribblers.” (See Geist Magazine’s Canadian Phrasebook for more sentences about Canadian slang.)

Many people know me as Sarah “the Pathetic Grammar Weirdo With Nothing Else to Do on the Weekend” Leavitt.

I have always loved “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” by John Donne.

Word is that Anchal on America’s Next Top Model is “fat.”

There are other uses, too. But all too often, quotation marks are misused. As on this sign I saw in Prince Rupert, BC last summer:


Here, quotation marks are used incorrectly for emphasis. But we read it as irony. So it’s as if the sign is saying we shouldn’t really drive slowly. Or the people who made the sign didn’t mean us to understand the common definition of “slow” but maybe some other meaning that only locals know.

Here is another example, from BC Ferries:


See what I mean? Do not use quotation marks willy-nilly. It makes people laugh at messages that are supposed to be taken seriously.

PS The quotation marks in the title of this post are excessive and inappropriate and undermine the serious nature of what I am trying to say.