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Let's say that I want to communicate that a particular website is the first result when googling cool ringtones. Normally I would say it like this:

This website is the first Google result for "cool ringtones".

But Google understands quotation marks and "cool ringtones" is not the same as cool ringtones. People might not be sure which one I meant in the above quote. Normally I would use italics like I'm doing here, but I can't do text formatting. What are my options?

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6 Answers 6

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It's a common problem in programming. One technique is to use single and double quotes. For instance the search for the two words you could write as

This website is the first Google result for "cool ringtones".

Whereas the search for the phrase could be written

This website is the first Google result for ' "cool ringtones" '.

NB whitespace added for visual clarity.
Or you could just say

This website is the first Google result for the words "cool" and "ringtones".
This website is the first Google result for the phrase "cool ringtones".

I think which I picked would depend on my audience.

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1  
+1 for "the words" vs. "the phrase". –  Marthaª Nov 22 '11 at 19:46

When specificity is important, it's important to be specific.

I would render the search terms italic and follow them with parenthetical clarification as to whether or not quotation marks were used.

This website is the first Google result for cool ringtones (without quotation marks).

or

This website is the first Google result for "cool ringtones" (with quotation marks).

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2  
I think the parenthetical clarification is the important bit, with or without italics. –  lindanaughton Nov 22 '11 at 20:00
    
As the OP specifically stated that he can't use text formatting, once the italics are removed, the examples might be confusing, though the parentheses help. –  WesT Nov 23 '11 at 3:09

I don't know how many others adopt the same usage as me, but in comments here on ELU where it might make a difference I often write, for example...

This website is the first Google result for quotated "cool ringtones".

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2  
"Quotated"?? Really? //ick, blech, shudder, yuck. What's wrong with "quoted"? –  Marthaª Nov 22 '11 at 19:44
    
I just feel that being slightly "non-standard", quotated forces the reader to pause long enough to register exactly what I mean, where plain quoted might be skipped over as meaning I'm merely "citing" some phrase under discussion. I don't say everyone should copy my style, but I'm a bit surprised you find it bothersome. –  FumbleFingers Nov 22 '11 at 22:58
    
@FumbleFingers: I didn't intend any criticism of your English skills. My comment was poorly-worded and not useful, so I've deleted it. –  Scott Severance Nov 23 '11 at 8:20
    
@Scott: Ditto. I will admit I've been caught out here on ELU in the past by taking it for granted that certain constructions are axiomatically "ignorant, uneducated". Only to discover that they are effectively "standard" in certain dialects. Which link reminds me that I've long wondered about attitudes to "Do you want to come with?", so I think I'll ask about that. –  FumbleFingers Nov 23 '11 at 14:55

Back in the day before we even had an option of formatting text, emphatic text was indicated with either asterisks (to imply bold) or underscores (to imply italics) preceding and following the emphasised text.

This website is the first Google result for _"cool ringtones"_. (for the quoted/phrase version)

This website is the first Google result for _cool ringtones_. (for the unquoted/words version)

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And back in the day it would be the first Altavista result for _hip 78s_. –  Hugo Nov 23 '11 at 7:34

You could write COOL RINGTONES like this, in capital letters.

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A notation I’ve seen on the web (e.g., here) goes thus:

This website is the first Google result for [cool ringtones].

or

This website is the first Google result for ["cool ringtones"].

(Actually, on the web it’s reasonable to make these live links, e.g., [cool ringtones] & ["cool ringtones"], but that’s beside the point.)

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