This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

July 22, 2014

Why you shouldn't use quotation marks when writing on the web

For some strange reason, quotation marks aren't understood correctly by all devices that people use to read the web. When a particular device can't understand a character, such as a quotation mark, it writes out some nonsense code. If your device can see this " as a quotation mark, you may be surprised to see it display as a bunch of weird code for someone else. No, I have no idea why devices have trouble with quotation marks, and the problem will probably go away in the future, but for right now, it's a good idea to avoid quotation marks.

And there is a second reason to avoid quotation marks. And that's because when you're trying to be funny, sarcastic, or ironic on the web, by using quotation marks, which in many instances means that you're saying exactly the opposite, as in "fresh food", the web doesn't understand it. Actually most people don't understand sarcasm and irony, and really, it's not a good way to communicate. Saying exactly the opposite of what you mean, by using quotation marks, is just weird. If I want to say that the food is not fresh, I should say that the food is not fresh, not look at that "fresh food".

The workaround, that you may have seen, is using asterisks. So, if I absolutely have to use a quotation mark, I will write it *like this*. The web has no problem with asterisks, and people who have reading stuff on the web for a long time are used to it. And maybe, in the long run, it will change the meaning and usage of the asterisk, much like @, which means at (a certain price or value), and has come to see understood as at, as in location. We've all gotten used to that, and only the most picky users of the language complain about it.

Language is all about communication. Before the web, an asterisk was only used to draw your attention to some small print, as in *sold only in the United States. But now it's developed another use, and if we all agree on it, and understand it, that's all that matters.

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