Quotation Marks and Emphasis

Email Etiquette and Quotation Marks for Emphasis

A site visitor writes:

Is it acceptable to emphasize a point in an email with quotes? For example, The people on the Board are “elected,” not appointed after all.
Net [email protected] Site Visitor

Anything you can do to ensure your intent and the meaning of your comments come through as intended is okay. But must be used sparingly and with discretion.

With that said, I don’t think the above is an example of emphasis. Instead, I would take that as more along the lines of insinuating that the fact they were elected instead of being appointed makes a difference somehow — possibly with a hint of sarcasm. Is that what you intended?

Nuances of perception with the written word, in plain text, can be tricky. Therefore, sarcasm should be avoided if possible as it is subjective and open to interpretation by the other side.

Even if you didn’t mean to be sarcastic, those quotation marks make clear you are making a point. Try reading your statement out loud and see if you add any emphasis. If you do, you can count on the other side amplifying that.

Your email program allows you to highlight words so that they are emphasized. So the selected text appears like this. Another option is to use keyboard characters for emphasis.

For example: It is not that I *care*; I care /too much/.

In my experience, formatting for emotional reasons or emphasis is at the core of many misunderstandings. That’s why it is better to choose your words carefully in place of relying on any formatting.

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