Using "Air Quotes" in Online Communication


When I see double quotes wrapped around a couple of words or a small phrase, I immediately think of Sheldon's air quotes from The Big Bang Theory and the emotion that comes to mind is sarcasm. I absolutely know this is the case for many people - one small impact of popular culture.

Now, if you are a writer and intend sarcasm, leveraging this thinking pattern might be a great way to make your point - as long as all of your readers are familiar with "Sheldon quotes".

On the other hand, if sarcasm is not your intent, using double quotes might completely derail your intended message. Readers can't see if we actually hold up our hands and tweak our fingers, or if we just think it in our heads, or if we didn't mean sarcasm at all.

This is another way text communication can be flat, leading to miscommunication. Yet we don't want to start inserting emojis into our business communication (or at least some of us don't).

Why did we all start using so many quote marks anyway? Online it's not good practice to use underline other than for hyperlinks, so we're left with bold and italic for emphasis... plus symbols, like "double quotes". (They're really awkward, too. On which side of the quote does the period go? You can see what I "think".)

Before you type those double quotes the next time, hesitate and question if you really need them at all. Are you quoting a person speaking, or is it for emphasis?

As a footnote, I'm definitely not suggesting you switch to exclamation points instead!!!

photo by Peter23394 / Flickr

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