Almost every answer on the site could use editing to mark the words being used as examples. I don't really feel comfortable editing a bunch of posts just for this reason; plus, I feel like I can't keep up. How can we encourage people (mostly the answerers, though also the askers to some extent) to make use of the formatting options available?

So instead of

Formally, if should be used when you have a conditional sentence and whether should be used when you are showing that two alternatives are possible.

which is hard to parse, we should encourage something like

Formally, if should be used when you have a conditional sentence and whether should be used when you are showing that two alternatives are possible.

  • 3
    Every post I want to yell 'use quotes'!!
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 1:17
  • 3
    Very good question. As to the answer—I wish I knew!
    – Cerberus
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 2:47

1 Answer 1


My practise on ELU has evolved towards this (though I haven’t been altogether consistent):

  • Mark both technical terms and ‘mentioned’ words or phrases in italics, as in your example
  • Mark literal quotations and longer constructions employed as examples in “double quotes”—this leaves it possible to mark the ‘mentioned’ terms in italics, as before
  • Mark allusions and non-standard, colloquial or ironic uses in ‘single quotes’
  • Mark rhetorical emphasis with bold or bold italics, depending on typographical context

But I’m not wedded to this. If the Community wants something different I’ll go along. And if left to my own devices I might change anyway, since the typeface here seems antipathetic to quotation marks.

  • The quote marks here aren’t particularly distinctive because the font is basically a bog standard sans clone along Helvetica lines. Hopefully at some point the font will be changed to a decent serif which should help readability and make the quote marks more ‘curly’. Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 20:20
  • As I grew bored of English curly quotes eating my words on the FL&U beta, I ‘saved ’ the Unicode hair space for easy access. You can find such interesting spaces here. I'll borrow your fine use of single quotes, sir =) (You don't seem so mention foreign words ? I use italics (aperçu ) for them, which sometimes forces quotes for ‘mentions’ to distinguish them.) Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 23:21
  • @NikanaReklawyks Yah, I write most of my posts in Word, in a stock file I keep which has all the spaces, dashes, diacritized characters I use, the IPA characters, OE and OW characters, and a handful of other useful glyphs in an order where I can find them more easily than in Unicode tables. Foreign terms, yes, I italicize those, too. Commented Feb 2, 2013 at 0:03
  • I mention and literal-quote with double quotation marks, bold to call attention to a word, and italicize for foreign words and emphasis. The only things I put in single quotation marks are nested quotations and mentions of a single character. I'm glad I discovered this post, as I've long wondered how and why your system is so different from my own. Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:52

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