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Punctuation Pet Peeve: A Rant on the “Rampant” Abuse of Quotation Marks

Updated: May 15, 2018

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  1. A local church had a scrolling marquee that drove me bonkers for weeks:
    ‘Come for “Bible Study” and learn about “God’s Healing”‘
    What?! What are you really teaching people in there?!

  2. I thought this was very entertaining, Caitlyn. As far as the signs everywhere, I feel like I’m “cursed” with the proofreader genes.

  3. The first photo of the “stairs” was probably my favorite- I imagined the door opening to reveal a deep, dark pit or something. Too funny!

  4. “SOOOO” glad I checked out this post, Caitlin. 😉

    Big laugh for the day when I saw the “Stairs”. Ooh, look out; they might be a cleverly-disguised illusion (she said redundantly), or those Harry Potter stairs that decide for you where you’re going.

    And another LOL for the sign admonishing the previous sign-poster; that’s def something I’d do.

    All your graphic examples are hilarious. In both senses of the word. 🙂 (I’ll remember you when next I go for one of my favourites: “sushi”. _snort_)

  5. One time my church put the guest speaker’s name in quotation marks on the bulletin, as if to say “Well, this is what he calls himself, but heck if we know who he really is!”

    Reminds me of this webcomic from a while back called, fittingly, “Quotation Marks”, with some nods to the proofreader in all of us.

  6. My favorite misuse of air quotes is on the TV series, “Friends”. Joey keeps using the quotes around the wrong word, most notably when he apologized. I’m “sorry”.

  7. Oh my goodness, this drives me bonkers as well! My favorite example is when folks put “Happy Birthday” in quotes.

  8. My pet peeve is not quotation marks used wrong (although it comes in a close second). My pet peeve is the misuse of apostrophes.
    I went to the store to buy a few thing’s.
    I got these book’s dirt cheap at a garage sale.
    Can you do a blog post on the misuse of apostrophes????

  9. There are complete websites with these hilarious signs.

    My newest pet peeve is not punctuation (although the one mentioned drives me up a wall that I’m used to) but word usage – not the old vs. the new – but something else. I frequently see sentences like these:

    He’s the kind of person that knows it all.
    She’s the type that knows where to find the answers.
    These are the kinds of people that make me very mad.
    A teacher that gives you high marks for good work is a treasure.

    I’ts WHO, not “that”!! WHO knows it all….. She’s the type WHO know.s…. (even if “…of person” is implied). These are the kinds of people WHO!!! (But they put the “s” on “kind” so they get points for that). A teacher is a person so – A teacher WHO!!!!!

    AAUUGGH…….it drives me nuts. I see it everywhere, everyday, every minute practically.

  10. Here’s another one:
    We better leave (instead of we’d better leave)
    Or, “old-fashion car” instead of “old-fashioned car”.

  11. Haha, this was great. When I use quotes I pause and ask myself if they’re really necessary. And of course, I always appreciate the subtle humor in the Chicago Manual of Style.

  12. My mom is the worst when it comes to using quotes when she comments on Instagram. She puts everything in quotes! Just recently my brother posted a picture of his suitcase and how he was having trouble trying to fit everything in it for a flight to Europe. My mom’s comment said, “You can do it. You’re the “expert traveling man.” And if you can’t, just wear “everything!” Every time I read her comments I think I unconsciously roll my eyes. But, I have two other pet peeves. They’re, their and there. Too, to and two. People really can’t spell these days. And they really don’t care either!

    1. I don't think either grammar or spelling are taught in schools anymore.

  13. Well, I found this sign at a local cafe, it’s not related to quotations but it obviously needs a comma. Lol
    Please don’t touch yourself
    Ask your server for help

    It was in reference to the cups on the shelf behind the sign but, really? Lol!

  14. My favorites are always with the word literally.

    I "literally" love her so much! I "literally" ate this entire meal! This is "literally" driving me crazy! Hmm… apparently not!

    Thanks for the laugh! Literally!!

  15. Yeah, too many quotations are annoying and used incorrectly, but even though it's wrong, we love it because we get to fix it.

  16. Well, at least they didn't write Stair's (I would have used italics but I can't.)

  17. Not exactly the same topic but in the younger generation I have seen a constant misuse between parentheses and quotation marks, usually substituting parentheses in place of where quotation marks are supposed to be. No matter how many times I reteach it, it persists!

  18. Here is another one. Bill asked me "to go to the store." I am not quoting Bill! I am just saying he asked me to go to the store!

  19. I laughed so hard from this text. Thank you for learning and laughing at the same time. I will be back.

  20. I particularly like the "NEW" underwear sign. Never having thought about the history of the misused quotation mark on signage, I'm of the mind that its current popularity is due to the very thing you refer to above: the air-quote. I think it's hard for people to air-italicize or air-bold a word they're speaking, so by default, they air-quote as a means to emphasize a word or phrase, and that has been transferred–incorrectly–to signs. LOL

  21. This is kind of along the same lines:
    Using a colon instead of a comma before a quotation. It seems to be standard practice nowadays.

  22. There must be a blank line (or box) where one is supposed to type/write EXACTLY what is intended to be on a sign. This is, more than likely, expressly stated thusly: "Whatever you input in the blank box is what will be on the sign." Yet, people unnecessarily include "quotation marks" (hahaha) around their text, yielding a sign that hilariously reads, "''Stairs''".

  23. Quotes around "children" on a school district sign? HAHAHA! Maybe they decided the students were all ghouls and zombies, not actual children!

  24. Yes, this drives me crazy, too! And also the rampant abuse of the apostrophe!!

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