Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with passion. Learn More

Oh it’s... “Free”?

While on vacation during the first week of summer, I came across an advertisement for the H1N1 Vaccine on the back of a coach bus. It stated “Get your ‘free’ H1N1 vaccine today!”

This begs the question, does putting quotation marks around “Free” (but not as a quotation, of course) serve any function or purpose? Such as:

All these hot dogs are “free”.

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Comments

The hot dogs were free, as in a third party could take them but they weren't free to produce. Same with the H1N1 vaccine. Unless the hot dogs or vaccine appeared out of the air, then they aren't literally free.

sean1stbassoon Jun-30-2010

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Often, putting a single word in quotes in this manner expresses doubt or irony. A free vacation is one that costs you nothing. A "free" vacation is one that includes extra "processing fees", etc., perhaps hidden in the fine print.

Sometimes quotes are used simply for emphasis. This usage is non-standard and considered by many to be incorrect as it can be easily confused for irony or sarcasm, sometimes with humorous results. Using italics, boldface, etc., is preferred.

For a good presentation on various uses of "out of place" quotation marks, see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quotation_mark

especially the paragraphs on irony, signaling unusual usage, use-mention distinction, and emphasis (incorrect usage).

porsche Jun-30-2010

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There is a popular blog entirely devoted to this issue.

http://www.unnecessaryquotes.com/

Nigel1 Jul-04-2010

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The use of quotes for emphasis is nonstandard, and frowned upon. But it's quite common on handwritten ads. As such, they're known as "grocers' quotes."

bubbha Sep-25-2010

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I agree with those who posted that the quotation marks were for emphasis, I also wonder if in some cases it is not free; sometimes things like vaccinations are free to certain groups and there are strings attached to the general offer.

BTW, I would suggest that you don't use the expression 'begs the question' on a grammar forum, see http://www.fallacyfiles.org/begquest.html

Simple phrases like 'It makes me wonder...' or 'It raises the question...' can assist in avoiding this contentious phrase.

perditax Jan-14-2011

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