Grammergency #13: When Quotation Marks Attack
Written by
Annie Tucker
May 2015
Written by
Annie Tucker
May 2015

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a little photography project, inspired by signs around California that use quotation marks incorrectly and that I find hilarious—especially when I can’t figure out for the life of me what purpose the quotes are meant to serve. Got any theories?

This one is my favorite. I found it on a fireplace screen.

I get that garlic conjures up negative images for some people (bad breath, vampires, etc.), but there's nothing hypothetical about enjoying it.

This doesn’t make me want to trust Perma Guard; it’s like using finger quotes when you say, “I’m telling you the truth.”

Double trouble here: Not only does Stater Bros. seem unsure of where the Heartland is, but the opening quotes are backward to boot.

So, do I actually get a glass of sangria for $6, or are you going to gouge me when I get my bill?

My only guess is that whoever made this sign really wanted to use more scientific language, but the park service said no. The illustration really makes up for the punctuation problem, though.

Why is only the first instance of “flu” in quotes? If the illness is only theoretical, shouldn’t the injection be, too?

Gotta love the TSA—always making things simpler for us. As if airports weren’t hard enough to navigate already.

I live right by this Laundromat, and I’m pretty sure this TV doesn’t even exist, so I guess it stands to reason that the time frame for winning it is equally elusive.

Anyone who lives in Southern California knows there is no “best” way to LA, because every route you could possibly take is gridlocked. Still, there has to be a better option than hopping this truck, and Griggs seems to be admitting that here.

Have a grammar question? Leave it in the comments below.

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  • Lisa Thomson

    Hilarious! Ridiculously funny, too. Great post!

  • Carol D. Marsh


  • Joan Z. Rough

    Great post, Annie.  Those quotes are all over the place, not just in California. I think Lyn Jensen's explanation is right on.

  • Jill Jepson

    I love this! Unfortunately,California isn't alone!

  • Lyn Jensen

    I think many people don't understand that quotation marks are for just that, quotations.  They indicate what someone else said, or what someone else may have said, or as a figure of speech.  People (mis)use them as a substitute for boldface, italics, or THE CAPS lock.

  • Great job on this, Annie! Love it. I think this misuse is universal. I'm in Chicago and spot these humdingers all the time. I think it is an attempt (an effective one) to call attention to their message.