Emphasis Extremis

This morning, a crow strutted to the sliding glass door at the back of my place, looked in, cawed several times, then flew away. He/she has done this every morning for the past couple months.

Since I have caught crows in the act of dropping peanut shells in the birdbath, I know that someone has been offering them peanuts. Apparently, my daily visitor makes the rounds every day, demanding more peanuts from other humans in his neighborhood.

But I enjoy looking beyond the obvious, and turned to the Medicine Cards for a different perspective on Crow’s daily appearances. Here’s an excerpt:

Since Crow is the keeper of sacred law, Crow can bend the laws of the physical universe and “shape shift.” … This art includes doubling, or being in two places at one time consciously: taking on another physical form, and becoming the “fly on the wall” to observe what is happening far away.

As the entry continues, we get the following:

The law which states that “all things are born of women” is signified by Crow…Different formulas for salvation are demanded by each “true faith.”…You must “caw” the shots as you see them…As you learn to allow your personal integrity to be your guide…Your personal will can then emerge…

This view of crow intrigues me, fascinates me. But my eyes and mind stumble over the many scare quotes and italics, and at the end of the reading, I feel exhausted and irritated.

If you want to emphasize certain words, go right ahead. That’s a legitimate use for italics. But if you overdo it, you risk losing the emphasis and annoying the reader.

In the same way, create a scare quote by placing a word or words in quotation marks. But use scare quotes sparingly. Otherwise, you dilute the power of your writing and annoy readers.


Tara Treasurefield

Treasurefield Communications


About 123clear

I translate foggy information into plain English.
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