Often I want to establish that I am using a term "loosely", and so I will use quotes ("scare quotes"?) to indicate this.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if I need to continue this pattern with that term, or if a single use is good enough.

If I introduce such a "loose" word in the first sentence of a paragraph, for example, can I proceed to use the word from then on without quotes without taking the word as literally as if I hadn't used quotes in the first place? Or should an entire paragraph/work contain that word in quotes if I want to avoid using it literally?

One specific example that led me to asking this question was the Wikipedia page for Dark Matter:

At present, its indirect detection and study is limited to observations by its gravitational interaction with "ordinary" matter. Its effects on ordinary matter allow us to infer its presence and some of its properties.

Notice the use of "ordinary", followed almost immediately by its use again without quotes.

Imagine if you wanted to write 4 pages of text referring to "ordinary" matter. Would it be necessary to use quotes every single time you use the term, or is doing it once enough to establish that the term is used loosely, and then further usage of the term is understood not to be taken too literally?

I suspect the answer might depend on what you're actually writing. For my purposes, it would just be for the case of informal online writing. It might be a lot different when writing an actual book or paper.

  • 1
    It depends on the word in its context. – Lawrence Mar 19 '18 at 2:37
  • At best, Dave, Lawrence is correct. Why would it be difficult for you to provide one or two - or more - specific examples? – Robbie Goodwin Mar 19 '18 at 21:11
  • @RobbieGoodwin I've posted an example. – Dave Cousineau Mar 20 '18 at 1:31
  • Thanks, Dave, and if it's really clear that the first use of the term is a definition which all subsequent uses follow, consider leaving the quotes off the subsequent uses. Otherwise, use quotes every time. – Robbie Goodwin Mar 31 '18 at 18:40

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