The following page has the sentence

That makes them easily "mockable" for testing purposes, so you could create a MyMockTable : IMobileServiceTable<TodoItem> that implements your testing logic.

I notice this trend for words the author doesn't assume the reader knows. In some cases, where material is delivered to a subject matter expert, it seems condescending, or makes them think this material isn't geared for them.

In this case, mockable is a term that has been in the industry for quite a while, and I'm looking for a style guideline for similar intents (which I'm also guilty of).

  • 1
    I believe that this is one way of identifying early sources of new usage. @Hugo would probably have some insight into this.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 1:19
  • You could use italics or bold and define it. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 5:46
  • This is a fairly common convention, not only for new/unfamiliar terms, but for any term which might be used with a special meaning in the current context.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 13:45

2 Answers 2


Consider that Donald Trump (or fill in whatever politician you love to hate) is "easily mockable", in the sense that he can be mocked (made fun of). Reading the above text "cold", without being familiar with the terminology, and without the word being in quotes, could very easily lead one to understand the author to be saying that "them" could easily be made fun of.

So somehow identifying the word as "special" is important. As to whether this is done with quotes or italics, there are schools of thought in both directions. Had the author written

We use the term "mockable" to indicate that, for testing purposes...

Then "mockable" should definitely be in quotes, since it's being used as a noun, like any other quoted phrase. And, since quotes are used in this situation, it's simplest and most consistent to use quotes in the original, very much similar situation. Especially note that, in the original context, using italics could be taken as "emphasis" rather than a signal for a particular word meaning, leading to the possible confusion described.

Also note that your source text is some Microsoft documentation where there are likely other standard uses for italics (eg, to denote keywords in the programming language), so for that case italicizing "mockable" would probably be a bad idea.

Net-net: The use of quotes around "mockable" is perfectly legit.

  • Color/bold is used for keywords. Code in technical papers often looks like it's being displayed on a text-only monitor, as in the OP. I don't recall ever seeing italics used in code. Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 0:19
  • @MattSamuel - Perhaps not on that web page, but I reached over to my bookshelf and the first book I picked up, the venerable K&R C book, uses italics for attribute names.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 1:14
  • Is that the one that's 38 years old? Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 1:34

Since it seems this question is about technical papers I thought perhaps the conventions in math papers would be relevant, though perhaps this is not the case.

If you are using a term that the reader may not know, then you define it. Typically bold or italics are used to single the word out in the definition, and the definition may be in its own paragraph, and may even look like

Definition 1.3 A person is mockable if it is possible to mock them while at the same time retaining one's dignity.

This could be too much. A milder alternative would be

Joe is mockable, meaning it is possible to mock him while maintaining your dignity. Blah blah blah...

In any case quotes would never be used as they give the impression that the term is not legitimate. If the reader is expected to know the term, there's no reason to single it out, and if they may not know it then define it and use it freely afterwards.

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