Editing 101: Is "Now" Good for You? - quotation marks revisited

A few weeks ago, we talked about questionable usages of quotation marks, and how they can really lend themselves to making otherwise normal sentences seem strangely magical - or just weird.

What does it mean when the sign outside a butcher shop says:

Our hamburger is ground "fresh" every day!

Should we question the dealership if the sign out front promotes:

Huge discounts on all "new" cars!

Where do we go when the sign says:

Turn "right" at the light.

Yet, as I was driving last week, I passed a sign where the ambiguous quotation marks actually seemed to make sense. Sadly, I was driving at the time - so I didn't take any photos.

Here's the set-up: I was driving along Interstate 90, having just entered South Dakota from Minnesota. The billboard - which was advertising something I no longer remember - was located about 3/4 of a mile before the next exit, calling drivers to:

Exit right "now"!

I looked at that, and thought "well, there's a bad use of quotation marks!" But then I thought about it a little more and decided to give the sign maker the benefit of the doubt. After all, if a driver literally exited where the sign said to exit ("right now!"), that driver would have ended up driving through a ditch, through a fence, and across some farmland.

If, on the other hand, the driving reader realized that "now" was in quotation marks to suggest that it was indicating a relative immediacy, as opposed to a concrete immediacy, he or she would also realize that turning off at the next paved exit was the way to go.

With that in mind - and with the forgiveness that comes with Thanksgiving (yet seems to quickly go away on Black Friday) - I have opted to applaud the sign maker's use of the quotation marks.

Okay, yes, I may be over-thinking this just a tad. But I had pumpkin pie on my mind at the time, and so the benefit of the doubt seemed like a good way to go.

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