June 19, 2006

Misusing “quotation” marks: the continuing “crisis”

Posted in Media at 11:43 am by The Lizard Queen

Truth in advertising
Originally uploaded by Bassclefgirl.

I am frequently amused by the general public’s misuse of quotation marks. More often than not, it’s the result of an attempt at emphasizing a certain word, as I assume is the case in the attached photo (either that or they’re just very serious about truth in advertising over at Lee’s Auto Ranch).

However, I am very much not amused by this headline from the New York Post: TV-REPAIR FIEND ‘RAPES’ TEEN. I realize, of course, that the man is innocent until proven guilty. However, I feel like the use of quotation marks (or, rather, apostrophes standing in for quotation marks) here belittle the woman’s experience.

Happier stuff from me later today.



  1. Alix said,

    I’ve never noticed such misuse of quotation marks, but it really can change the entire meaning of a sentence. For example (yes, I know, it’s not the most intellectual example ever, but I found it amusing), in Friends, Joey announces he doesn’t understand the hand motion for “” that people often use when speaking to each other. So throughout the episode he keeps using them at improper times, one of which is when he’s talking to Ross and says ‘I’m “sorry”!’ Yeah, just thought I’d throw that out =).

  2. Mwa ha ha–it’s funny because I was thinking of Joey, too, as I was writing this. Hopefully I haven’t just condemned you to suddenly noticing a ton of misused quotation marks out there; I know I notice them more because of my English-major geekiness, as well as because I have to read bad student papers…

  3. Caracierge said,

    Are you going to write about misuse of the apostrophe as well?! There’s some law of conservation that for every time someone drops the apostrophe from a proper location (say from its), it shows up in a sign like “Book’s for Sale!”

  4. luaphacim said,

    I agree completely; my wife’s grandmother puts quotation marks around my name in cards she sends me, and it always kind of makes me question whether I “actually” exist.

    One thing about quotation marks in news headlines: they have to use quotes so they can put sensationalist headlines like that up. If a victim claims to have been raped, and the headline says, “TV-Repair Fiend Rapes Teen,” the paper can get sued for libel. Adding the quotation marks has the handy effect of allowing them to pick a witness’s standpoint for the headline. Obviously, there are some problems with this custom, but I won’t go into them. 🙂

  5. Ca–oh, apostrophes. I am indeed inclined to believe that there is some kind of law of conservation of apostrophes. Another pet peeve of mine is every day vs. everyday. And “alright.” I think the misuse of quotation marks often has the most amusing results, though…

    Luaphacim, you have a good point re: libel. Still, were I the editor I feel like I’d want the title of the article changed so that it doesn’t sound like they’re suspicious that the woman was indeed raped…

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