Posted by: Jack Henry | September 19, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Scare Quotes and Sneer Words

I recently read an article about scare quotes and sneer words. They sound so ghoulish don’t they? Perfect for Halloween. Well they’re not quite as scary as they sound. Scare quotes and sneer words are devices that writers frequently use to state their opinion.

As you may already know, writers use scare quotes to draw attention to a word or phrase to point out that it is inaccurate or absurd.

Example: The “art” on display at the Tate Modern gallery in London included an empty wooden frame hanging on a wall and a separate display that highlighted a rusted light fixture.

The scare quotes around the word art make it clear that the writer does not consider the pieces on display to be art.

Sneer words, on the other hand, are adjectives that writers place before a word or phrase to indicate their disbelief or disdain: words like supposed, purported, would-be, self-appointed, etc.

Example: The supposed expert made many claims he could not corroborate.

Sneer words, like scare quotes, are a not-so-subtle way for writers and speakers to indicate their repugnance or disbelief.

Do these devices have a place in business writing? No. Our job is to be professional, not insulting. It is an interesting article though (click here to read it in its entirety); it serves as a useful warning for all of us who tend to be a little sarcastic.

Keep it classy, JHA.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

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