I’ve never really told anyone this, but I’m kind of a jerk when it comes to grammar and punctuation. I usually don’t correct grammatical mistakes, I try not to be too critical of people who say “yous” instead of “you,” and I don’t walk around with a Sharpie correcting improperly placed apostrophes (even though I want to). Sometimes these mistakes bother me, and sometimes they just make me laugh.
Take suspicious quotation marks, I don’t know where the The Employees Must “Wash Hands” picture originated, but it’s all over the internet, and when I saw it I laughed out loud. Then I cringed a little bit, hoping the sign wasn’t posted in a “restaurant.” (<–Deliberate misuse.)
The first pair of suspicious quote marks I remember was on an insurance company sign on the street where I grew up. The sign read:
“Insurance That’s “Affordable”
Even as a kid I used to roll my eyes at that.
Bethany Keeley has built a mini media empire around the offending punctuation. The “Blog” of Unnecessary Quotation Marks is a collection of pictures submitted by readers, accompanied by Keeley’s hilarious comments.
She compiled the best of the unnecessary into “The Book of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks,” which publisher Chronicle Books calls, “a smarty-pants guide, “perfect” for desperate grammarians, habitual air quoters, and anyone who appreciates a good laugh.”
If you can’t wait to pick up the book, visit the Facebook group, Quotation Mark Hunters, which is where I found these pictures, and spent far too much time surfing and laughing.
I hope you’ll have a good laugh too, and maybe it will make you think twice before using quotation marks “willy-nilly.”
For clarification on the proper use and single vs. double quotation marks, and just about any other grammar question, visit Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips.
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Grammar Watch is an occasional series about grammar peeves, abuses, giggles, and rants. Email me with any topics you’d like to see included here.