Saturday, August 23, 2014

Little Bits O'Grammar #4: Don't Use Quotation Marks For Emphasis

When you need to emphasize a word in a sentence, use italics.  If that is not possible (such as on Twitter), use all caps, boldface type, or underlining.  Don't use quotation marks.
If you use quotation marks, the word in question may take on the connotation of not literally meaning what it says.
For example:
I can't believe Jimmy ate the whole pizza!  (In this sentence, whole means exactly what it should: the complete or entire pizza.)
I can't believe Jimmy ate the "whole" pizza!  (In this sentence, "whole" implies that Jimmy didn't eat the entire pizza, but rather that he's claiming he did and the speaker doesn't believe him, or else that "whole" means something completely different in this context.)

Mistakes of this nature often lead to unintentional humor.

Yesterday, I had to visit a doctor about some strange headaches I've been experiencing, and I stopped off in a restroom.  To my annoyance, it turned out to be one of those restrooms with two doors, one of which led to another doctor's suite of rooms -- and it had all the little shelves and cabinets necessary for the gathering of specimens.
Above one shelf was a sign that read, "Do not leave your urine sample on this shelf."   This is correct and clear.
But the sign on the two-way cabinet where the samples should be left was this:

Um.....  yeah.
This sign implies that it's not a urine sample at all; it's merely called a urine sample.
So, if it's not a urine sample, what is it?
Personally, this sign made me want to buy flat lemonade, pour it into a cup, and leave it in the cabinet -- just to mess with their minds.
But then, I have an evil streak when it comes to grammar.  ;)

1 comment:

  1. In tech support I see some strange and 'interesting' grammar. Okay, people are in a hurry, but double negatives and spelling every other word wrong is not on.