Because my goal in life is to “educate” the masses about all the unimportant things that I find tedious, today we will “discuss” something very “important” that I think we all need to “address.”
The “overuse” of quotation marks.
I could go into my abhorrence of exclamation points, but we’ll save “that” for another time!
While this is obviously a written medium and you’re reading what I write, the overuse of quotation marks is not limited to the “written” word. Oh no, the overuse of “air quotes” is also running rampant.
It’s a “laser.”
If you’re not familiar with “air quotes,” I have included the Wikipedia definition below:
“Air quotes, also called finger quotes, are virtual quotation marks formed in the air with one’s fingers when speaking. This is typically done with hands held shoulder-width apart and at the eye level of the speaker, with the index and middle fingers on each hand flexing at the beginning and end of the phrase being quoted.The air-quoted phrase is generally very short—a few words at most—in common usage, though sometimes much longer phrases may be used for comedic effect.”
What they don’t say is that the use of air quotes is generally done in a “sarcastic” manner, a way to “attempt” grammatical justification of a jab.
“So, I hear that you’re a writer” has a much different tone than, “So, I hear that you’re a ‘writer.’”
The first statement has a fairly neutral tone, at least until I add in a few dashes of skepticism and judgment that probably weren’t intended but that I implied. However, the second one seems to imply that being a “writer” is a “dubious” distinction.
Side note: That may very well be the case, but I’m not picking on writers. Feel free to sub in “singer,” “actress” or any other profession that I have no talent for doing and that would require the use of sarcastic and judgmental air quotes.
Anyway, the proliferation of air quotes and quotation marks in general got me “thinking,” and I tweeted that my new goal in life (after educating the masses about all the unimportant things that I find tedious and eating a meal without spilling on myself) is to find a way to have “air parentheses” and “other” forms of punctuation catch on the way “air quotes” have.
Why do quotes get all the love?
- It’s hard to describe “air parentheses,” but just imagine that every time you wanted to set off a list or include an aside (as I am often prone to doing,) you made big curving arcs with your arms.
- In case your tone makes, “You’re pregnant” indistinguishable from “You’re pregnant?” you could take one arm and act out the curvy part of a question mark like in a sassy “talk to the hand”-type gesture, accenting it with a punch at the bottom.
- Amy suggested that “air ellipses” could be like repeated poking of the air with index fingers on either side and Jess suggested using “air commas” to emphasize your need to pause between phrases and clauses. For this one, I’m envisioning a parade/beauty queen scooping-type wave.
- “Air colons” would be acted out like a boxer’s one-two punch, a quick jab-jab to let people know you’re starting a list or an explanation that is preceded by a clause that can stand by itself.
- We wouldn’t have to worry about the “air semicolon,” as no one knows how to use those anyway.
So even though most of you are only subject to “reading” my words and punctuation—and I can promise that exclamation points will always be used minimally!—if you see me in person, feel free to implement “air punctuation.”
Because while I find the overuse of “air quotes” rather tedious, I’m totally looking forward to someone trying to implement the “air ampersand.”
Do you have any punctuation pet peeves?
What punctuation mark do you think should get “aired” out and how would it be done?