Of course, the most obvious use of quotation marks is to encapsulate speech within text, for example:
A chicken walks into a bar; the bartender says “We don’t serve poultry.”
“That’s OK”, says the chicken “I just want a beer.”
However, quotation marks can also be used to suggest irony or alternate meanings, for example:
The bank proved how “generous” they were by raising the interest rate by just 1% this week.
Miriam suspected that her new neighbour might be a “lady of the night”.
In the first example, the word “generous” is used ironically to suggest sarcasm. By using quotation marks, the sentence implies the bank is anything but generous in their actions.
In the second example, Miriam actually suspects her new neighbour may be a prostitute (*gasp*), but would rather distance herself from such a term and use one she finds more palatable (Miriam should probably find another hobby instead of spying on her neighbours!)
While the above examples indeed use quotation marks to add emphasis to certain words or phrases, this theory should not apply to words for which the literal meaning is intended to remain the same (unless of course you are referring to the word as an actual word.)
Consider the following examples; when you apply the above rules, the implications are somewhat confusing at best!
Using quotation marks to convince me you’re using a “perfectly good airplane” curiously has the opposite effect!
Ah yes, we all love a good “comedy”. *snore*
Fresh brown “eggs”. Is that what you call them? They sound a little suspect to me.
One can only hazard a guess at what their “food” is and how much the “free” chips & salsa really cost.
Mobile phones & cheat sheets allowed. Who knows, one day you may all go on to be fine “honest” politicians and car salesmen.
Translation: Please note: There are trained monkeys sleeping behind this curtain. Please don’t light up your joint next to it. Whatever..!
Actually, we’ll make it seem as though we’ve repaired the problem you were having with your phone, but tamper with something else so it breaks and you have to come back to us for more “repairs”. Mwahaha…!
As you can see, using quotation marks for emphasis where the literal interpretation of the word is not intended to change, can have quite detrimental effects on your copy.
DON’T DO IT!
If you need to add emphasis to your text, use italics, bold font, capitals, underlining – but PLEASE – leave the quotation marks out of it!!
Now excuse me while I enjoy a cup of “tea” (interpret that how you please!)