Okay, I admit it gets to me more than it should, but abuse of quotation marks really gets my goat. (It does not get my "goat".)
Many people use quotation marks to convey emphasis. But quoting and emphasizing are two different beasts; consider instead italic, bold, or underlining as time-honored ways to emphasize words. If you don't have those fonts, then *stars* work well. (Some people use all-caps, though to me that reads as shouting.)
So what do quotation marks mean? A bunch of related things, all related to quoting: that is, to the idea that you can't replace the quoted word with a synonym, without destroying the meaning. Compare:
Smith where Jones had had had had had had had had had had had the examiners approvalWith punctuation:
Smith, where Jones had had "had", had had "had had"; "had had" had had the examiner's approval.
The Quotation-Mark Litmus Test: Replace the word in question with a synonym; if this doesn't change the gist of the sentence, then quotes are inappropriate.
How does this relate to quoting somebody else? With quotation marks, you are insisting that you're repeating somebody's exact words. Without quotation marks, you are only paraphrasing them.
Note that this means that company mottos/logos/trademarks/jingles therefore do deserve quoting: Changing "All the news fit to print" to "Every daily event worth writing about", strips away the name-recognition familiarity which the company has established. Consider replacing some occurrences of "Where's the beef?" with "What's the cow-meat's location?" -- the latter could only be a parody of the former ad, even though the meaning is the same. So the quoting in those commercial cases is necessary to say "hey, our motto is the exact phrase -- we don't have legal claim to similar phrases."
(This is all complicated by the fact that presumably meaning of those specific words is also part of the message/ad; it makes use of the fact that as humans, we'll still convert quoted text to meaning, even while recognizing the phrase's quoted status.)
Another way of looking at what quoting means: Suppress a word's meaning (semantics), and pay attention to the word itself (syntax -- it's spelling, whatever).
Aside, for those who have programmed in Scheme: This is exactly what quote means in Scheme, as well. Compare pi with 'pi. Usually you automatically translate from the placeholder pi to the value it represents. The quoted form 'pi means, "whoah, don't do that translation -- this is a symbol with no other meaning". Note that you could replace the expression pi with a synonomous expression -- e.g. (+ 1 2.1415926536) -- without changing the original expression's meaning. Not so with the quoted version.
In my own writing, I use the same trick with quotation marks as I do with commas, parentheses, the use of "etc.", etc.: When scanning what I've written, I briefly consider what would be different if I took that feature out; often that makes me realize it was a superfluous use.
"We put safety first!"
The internet is everywhere; printed books are "dinosaurs".
A cat's claw is actually an evolved "fingernail".Language is fluid, and lets us use words in non-standard ways. Creative writing or effective descriptions don't need to be excused.
I still remember his last "brilliant" decision.Sarcasm and irony speak for themselves.
George W.'s mannerisms are reminiscent of his father's -- a real "chip off the ol' block".No need to quote aphorisms; people know them well enough to know they're word-for-word.
A "sound shadow" is the area behind an obstruction, where the loudspeaker can't be heard. Sound shadows are a hazard if speaking in large conference rooms with support columns.Note that we don't want to change the contents of the quoted material, since we'll use that exact term in the future. You could replace the second use with, say, the synonyms "area of lack of aural access", without changing the meaning. (Though presumably, the whole point of defining the term was so you could later use it for better clarity.)
Note that people routinely introduce definitions purely through context; that's fine:
If putting on a show, watch for people are sitting in a loudspeaker's "sound shadow". Support columns often cast sound shadows ...
A cat's "thumb" is located on the back of its foreleg.
A "couple" of reasons .. [going on to list 7 things]
"Santa" is our middle name!(If they'd left off the quotes, it would sound like their middle name wasn't a series of letters, but rather a short fat guy in red.)
", when prepended to an unquoted copy of itself, becomes grammatical." -- Douglas Hofstadter