Are quotes only for spoken text? Can I use quotes to emphasize sarcasm, like when somebody physically makes quote symbols with their fingers while reading?

  • 2
    I don't normally like to remove tags from really old posts but the quotes tag is for quotations, not quote marks. So I switched it out in favor of punctuation
    – Cyn
    Apr 23, 2019 at 20:31

5 Answers 5


I've only seen people make quote symbols with their fingers while speaking, not reading. If someone's speaking, you already have a set of quotes, you'd have to alternate between single and double quotes to keep them apart.

"As you can see, this 'premium' product is, in fact, a piece of garbage."

Sure, works for me. If you want to know for certain, consult a style guide like the Chicago Manual of Style (only available to subscribers, alas).


Yes, you can absolutely use quotes to indicate sarcasm (or irony).

If the sarcasm is in dialogue, you can write it exactly as in Hobbes's example. If you want to have the additional stage business of the speaker making air quotes, you can do that too, but most readers will understand what the sarcastic quote marks mean.

If the sarcasm is in prose, you would use double quotes in the same manner.

The audience can see the "twist" coming a mile off.

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    Note: Use that only for short sarcastic pieces - 1-3 words at most. If you quote a whole sentence, you'll just confuse the reader.
    – SF.
    Nov 5, 2013 at 15:43

Here is the guideline I use:

Use quotes on ironical (or sarcastic) terms in dialogue only if the speaker is inflecting their voice to make clear the irony. In narration, use quotes only if the irony seems easily misunderstood.

Personally, I think well-written irony (sarcasm) needs no quotes. Readers are likely smart enough to catch it. Be careful that you don't insult readers by making explicit irony that is obvious in context.


Definitely use the quotes, and don't forget about this '⸮' as punctuation.

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    I have never seen a backwards question mark before. What language uses it and where would you put it? Nov 6, 2013 at 11:48
  • @LaurenIpsum: It's not really used in a specific language, it was someone's suggestion for use to demarcate sarcasm. You use it like a period or similar punctuation. Nice pun. Dec 30, 2013 at 19:16
  • That's amusing. What's the name of the mark? I'd be so distracted trying to figure how how the hell the typesetter made that character and what it meant that I'd totally lose track of whatever the sentence was. Dec 30, 2013 at 21:58
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    @LaurenIpsum It's an "irony mark". The typesetter makes it the same way he makes any other character. However, since nobody knows it, nobody uses it, so yeah, not a really helpful sign.
    – PoorYorick
    Apr 29, 2019 at 8:25

Can you? yes Should you? No

Sarcasms and jokes are meant to amuse the readers.

And the way to amuse the readers is to let them discover things for themselves.

No one ever says.. "Hey get ready everyone... get ready to laugh, because I am about to tell you one funny joke."

The reason no one does that is because everyone knows that's how you kill a joke.

Sarcasm is the same way...

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    Sarcasm is often used not for amusement, but to point up how absurd someone else's idea or expression is, and here use of quotes to signal it can be a good idea. May 1, 2019 at 2:49

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