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Against “Air Quotes”

I’ve long been a critic of the colloquial use of quotation marks. This is a particular problem in theological writing. Anyone wanting to write something clever or use any form of slang in a theological treatise seems pathologically bound to enclose such phrases in quotation marks. To my mind this nearly always has the effect of making the writer sound like bumbling and silly.

As it turns out Strunk and White have a similar opinion:

“If you use a colloquialism or a slang word of phrase, simply use it; do not draw attention to it by enclosing it in quotation marks. To do so is to put on airs, as though you were inviting the reader to join you in a select society of those who know better.” (The Elements of Style, 34)


  1. N. Dan Smith wrote:

    I see you have found the Journalist theme. Welcome!

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    I’m just messing around. I may be switching to soon. But I’m out of my depth with much of the process.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  3. N. Dan Smith wrote:

    Email me if you have any specific questions. :-)

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  4. Hill wrote:

    It’s not nearly as much of a problem as the scourge of over-italicization.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  5. Matt Wiebe wrote:

    Or, as Jon Stewart calls them, “dick quotes.”

    If you decide to transfer to and need a hand, let me know. I’d be happy to help.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink
  6. James Gilmore wrote:

    There’s a blog devoted to unnecessary quotation marks.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink
  7. roger flyer wrote:

    Strunk and White have not been edited for several decades.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink
  8. roger flyer wrote:

    Air quotes are for mimes.

    Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 5:52 am | Permalink

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