Stop the misuse of quotation marks!

Some people who read this sign, will interpret the message as “this company really finds it important that I stop driving at this point and instead enter on NW Davis Street. I can tell that they find it important because they have put quotation marks around the word to draw my attention to it.”

However, people who understand the correct use of quotation marks (and, I will agree, we are in the minority) will giggle because by putting quotation marks around the word stop, they are actually encouraging us to not stop our vehicles. Had the company, or the sign makers asked us, we would have told them that when trying to draw people’s attention to something, perhaps the use of the exclamation point would have been a better choice.

Yes, that’s right folks. When you look up how to use quotation marks correctly there is a whole lot of information about using them for dialogue and where the commas go and on which side of the quotations the punctuation lives. There is nothing that instructs you to put them around “words” willy-nilly when you are trying to draw people’s attention to them.

Do you know why? Because when you put quotes around things that aren’t dialogue, it can often be read that the word you are quoting is not true. My favorite example from my workplace was at Bread and Circus and the sign in our Prepared Foods department advertised “fresh” sandwiches. “Are we trying to tell people we only serve old, moldy sandwiches?” I asked aloud before erasing their quote-ish presence. That sign above? It is saying to keep driving right through there. Don’t stop, no matter what other context clues tell you.

And really, what is wrong with the exclamation point? They are scattered all over the blogs (including this one) as well as enthusiastic people’s letters and notes. Why are they not used more on signs? Are they not dignified enough? And shouldn’t sign makers know better? Why not have an English major on staff to proofread those signs before you print them? God knows there are tons of unemployed English majors out there. Do us all a favor and hire one. The English major gets a job. Businesses don’t suffer the expense of incorrect signs and the general public isn’t assaulted by incorrect grammar.

Happily for those of us who get pleasure in the misuse of quotation marks, there is a blog. Yes, you too can enjoy The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks.

3 thoughts on “Stop the misuse of quotation marks!”

  1. I am not sure if I misuse the marks or not… hummmm!! I tend to use them when I am wanting to be sarcastic which I think after reading your post might mean I was using them correctly. I am a little unsure of myself – I was after all a biology major in school so English was my “second” language (Latin being my first – tee hee NOT funny)!! Did I do it right? What are your thoughts of inappropriate capitalization to emphasize something? I am also a BIG fan of overusing punctuation marks!! How does that sit with you??? ok, now I am just being a smart _ _ _…

  2. Oh how I “hate” to use extra exclamation marks. I “never” do it because it can be so uncouth. It is so “terrible” that you have now taught us the best path for adding quotations to our writing! -S

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