Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

If I want to mention the word "furlong", for example, should I use furlong, "furlong", or 'furlong'? Also, am I correct in putting the punctuation outside the quotes?

share|improve this question
    
I think that this question would be better fit for Writers.SE because it's about style –  simchona Sep 11 '11 at 0:01
    
The answer is regional for " compared to ' and for punctuation inside or outside. –  GEdgar Sep 11 '11 at 0:02
    
What do you mean by "mention"? –  Karl Knechtel Sep 11 '11 at 8:41
    
I mean mention the word as a word rather than use it, in this case as a unit of distance. –  xpda Sep 11 '11 at 12:53
    
This question doesn't meet the bar for quality, it's trivially answered with a single reference book. –  Nathan C. Tresch Jul 30 '12 at 23:49

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Any of those options will work, but if you refer to words more than once you should take care to use the same convention in each place. Italics seem the best option if you can use styled text, but styles aren't always available.

In American English, it's conventional to place punctuation marks inside quotes instead of outside. There are a lot of situations where that practice leads to ambiguity, though, such as when instructing the reader to type something:

Click in the text field and type "salami".

It's good to know the accepted convention and follow it when you possible, but convention should take a back seat to clarity. A typographic convention, such as using italics instead of quotes, can solve the problem by eliminating the quotes, but even then it's not always easy to tell if a punctuation mark like a period is italicized or not:

Click in the text field and type salami.

share|improve this answer

This is a really good question. I don't know why you think it's either trivial. Use italics when writing about words as words, or letters as letters (to indicate the use–mention distinction). When italics would cause confusion, quotation marks may be used to distinguish words as words.

share|improve this answer
    
This can depend on the manual of style being adhered to. –  American Luke Dec 16 '13 at 18:48

Font variations like boldface and italic have various uses. A great deal depends on context.
Here on ELU.SE, we cite examples a lot (though not nearly as much as we should), and I've found
that the conventions below, taken from an earlier post, are worth following, for consistency's sake.

In a different field, where there isn't so much quotation of words and sentences, italics can be used for emphasis. But then boldface shouldn't be used at all. In any even, a distinction between quotation and emphasis must be made, and it better be a consistent distinction, used consistently.

In this medium, where writing and typography has to express speech and sounds, I use italics and boldface like this:

  • I use plain italics only for citing examples and titles. Never for emphasis.
  • I use boldface for emphasis. These are words that would be LOUD in my speech.
  • I use bold italics for technical terms, usually with capitals, and links if I have them.
  • I also use bold italics in examples to point out individual parts that get mentioned in the text.
share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.