How should I write "boom," when it's the sound of a cannon? Or "creek," when it's the sound of a door? Or "wham," when it's the sound of an impact? Should I use quotation marks? Italics? Both? What do authors use? Thanks everyone! - Jim

closed as off topic by MetaEd, Kris, Kristina Lopez, tchrist, choster Jun 20 '13 at 15:18

Questions on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange are expected to relate to English language and usage within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.


I think it depends on the sentence structure, and the situation in the story. Consider these three:

David's ears were deafened by the boom of the cannons.
Marcus could hear the cannon boom, even from this distance.
Boom! Langston was awoken by a single cannon shot.

In the first sentence, presumably, David is near the cannon. It the second, Marcus is far away from it. In the third, it's hard to tell, and the noise itself is used as an interjection. I wouldn't necessarily follow the same convention in all three cases.

I think quotation marks, italics, or even all caps – BOOM! – might be used every now and then, but it depends on the context, and on the noise. I'd start by writing it in plain text, and then making a judgement call about whether the sound word needs more emphasis for some reason. A very loud noise (such as BOOM) might use capital letters; a drawn-out noise might have extra vowels, despite protests from the spellchecker (e.g., creeeeak). But I don't think there's a single convention that applies in each and every instance.

Most of all, I'd be wary of overdoing it. Too many all cap words or quotation marks could easily give your writing a very amateur appearance.

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