Watch Out for "Scare" Quotes
communicate that something is novel, ironic or nontraditional, a writer
may use what are commonly called scare quotes. For example: My sister
has a “fit” each time she thinks she won’t get what she wants from our
mother. In this case, the scare quotes make us understand that the fit
isn’t real and is done only to influence the mother’s decisions.
be careful! I often see beginning writers using quotation marks on
single words taken from short stories or articles studied in my English
classes. To do so makes writers appear to be sarcastic or ironic in
their use of the term.
If you do not intend to be ironic, then
best to use italics (if you need to identify a word used in a special
way) or, better yet, no special marks at all (since my usual rule is
that anything three words or more needs to be quoted when referring to
a piece of writing).
(April 3, 2011)
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