I always thought it meant sarcasm when someone wrapped quotation marks around a word.

"Thank you" for coming over...

That thank you now was said sarcastically and was a passive-aggressive way of saying that the writer wasn't truly thankful.

This morning I got a email sent to the entire office from my boss as such:

"Thank You" for your commitment, dedication and the support

Does it mean sarcasm or emphasis?

  • 1
    He's almost certainly intending it to be read as a sincere comment, and intends the quotes to signal a spoken message (aiming for the personal touch) rather than an unusual (as you say, often sarcastic) usage. Context (eg a bottle of wine, flowers, a smile, a raise) might confirm this. If he were my boss, I'd take it this way; if I were his teacher, I'd tell him to include a quote verb or at least a hint of one: 'I just want to say "Thank You" for your commitment, dedication and the support ...' 'Just a quick "Thank You" for your commitment, dedication and the support ...' Nov 26, 2013 at 20:15
  • Not sure why you didn't put that as an answer, haha, I know what he meant, I was asking it's actual meaning.
    – Phil
    Nov 26, 2013 at 20:18
  • Some people use double inverted comments to signal direct speech, or (as here) an echoing of direct speech, and single ones to indicate other quotations, irony etc. However, this is by no means universal. Oh, and I often put answers as comments when I feel the question might well have been asked here before. Nov 26, 2013 at 20:20
  • Well, at least you know that a style guide as a Christmas present would be a good gift. Though perhaps not as well received as you might hope.
    – terdon
    Nov 27, 2013 at 0:22
  • Yes, actually that is a duplicate, had NO idea they are called scare quotes. The first answer posted is the answer I was looking for! Should I delete my answer?
    – Phil
    Jan 10, 2014 at 16:48

2 Answers 2


It means emphasis. Although it is nonstandard to use quotation marks for emphasis, many people do it anyway. But one should avoid doing so, and use italics or boldface for emphasis instead.

  • 2
    Sorry, but how do you know the writer meant the quotes as emphasis? I have not seen quotes used that way. Nov 26, 2013 at 22:49
  • I was thinking the same thing and was wondering if he was going to give a source, never heard it as emphasis.
    – Phil
    Nov 27, 2013 at 15:38
  • @Phil: Here's one: Be careful not to use quotation marks in an attempt to emphasize a word (the kind of thing you see in grocery store windows—Big "Sale" Today!). Underline or italicize that word instead. (The quotation marks will suggest to some people that you are using that word in a special or peculiar way and that you really mean something else—or that your sale is entirely bogus.) "OOPS!" Nov 27, 2013 at 22:50
  • @Kristina: Misusing quotes for emphasis is actually not seldom at all — and not only in English, I might add. This has been covered before on this site, see e.g. here and the related questions linked from there.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jan 10, 2014 at 10:17
  • Note that italics are impractical or impossible in many situations, and tradition from the typewriter era leaves you only with quotes, underlining, and ALL CAPS as options for emphasis. (And underlining is also impractical in many cases.)
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 8, 2017 at 19:23

I think that it means that your boss is "saying" it to you to add sincerity.

P.S. The quotes in this sentence mean that his is not actually saying it but implying that he is doing so.

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