A colleague of experimental psychologist Steven Pinker once joked that verbs were ‘his little friends’ as Pinker believed that the way they are used can give genuine insight into the hidden machinery of cognitive processes.
You know who my ‘little friends’ are? Punctuation marks. I think that they can often give the game away. Take this doozy:
The best secondary schools trusted the incoming ‘levels’ achieved by pupils in primary school as a starting point . . .
–OFSTED, Maintaining Curiosity in Science, November 2013, p.42
The writer asks schools to trust things called “‘levels'”, which the writer has deliberately placed in quotation marks. H’mmm, interesting. Now why would they choose to do that?
By my count, there are five reasons to use quotation marks:
1. Reported speech — this instance doesn’t seem to fit that usage.
2. When coining a new word or phrase — again, this usage…
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