Punctuation marks of various kinds often trip writers up, and one area many seem to struggle with is when and how to use quotation marks.
The rules for when to use quotation marks are fairly simple. You should always use them when you are directly quoting something and very sparingly in other cases. Many times I run into the overuse of "scare quotes" when editing. Scare quotes are basically when you put quotations around a word or phrase that is not quoted from another source to indicate that you find it ironic, don't agree with the common usage of it, or are distancing yourself from it in some way. This crops up frequently in religious or political writing.
For example, a writer who is trying to debunk global warming might consistently use quotation marks around "global warming" to show his or her disdain for the concept. As you can imagine, this can get tiresome pretty quickly. Consider the following example:
Modern scientists are trying to push the theory of "global warming" on people. There is no evidence for "global warming," but they promote the concept frequently anyway. This "warming" effect is negligible at best. We had a sixty-degree day where I live in the middle of July recently. Does that sound like "global warming" to you?*
As you can see, the constant use of scare quotes gets to be very irritating. They most often have the effect of making the author seem pompous, pretentious, and condescending, which rarely helps to convince someone on the opposite side of your opinion. Try to be aware during your writing of whether you're using scare quotes too often and how those quotes may be interpreted by your readers. Although scare quotes can sometimes be used to get a point across, they should be used infrequently and with caution.
* Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Right Price Editing.