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Scare quotes, shudder quotes, or sneer quotes are quotation marks placed around a word or phrase to signal that a term is being used in a non-standard, ironic, or otherwise special sense. They may be used to imply that a particular expression is not necessarily how the author would have worded a concept. Scare quotes may serve a function similar to verbally preceding a phrase with the expression "so-called"—they may imply skepticism or disagreement, belief that the words are mis-used, or that the writer intends a meaning opposite to the words enclosed in quotes.
Another completely different definition uses the term scare quotes to mean words or phrases that are quoted in order to scare the reader, or, in a political campaign, to smear an opposing candidate. Scare quotes have also been defined as expressions or passages in a work of literature that cause an estrangement or cause something to seem unfamiliar in a supernatural way.