The solution is to foo, producing what is called a bar.


The solution is to foo, producing what is called a "bar".

Should I use generally use one over the other; and if so, which one? If either is acceptable, then which style guides (if any) have an explicit preference?

  • No matter which way you do it, it seems likely to end up foobar.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 5:48
  • The guy called Called called. Isn't it clearer to write The guy called "Called" called?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 13:36
  • Quote marks (properly used) have an important syntactic purpose. If a word or phrase is a quotation then it's syntactic role is no longer the sum of the words contained in it. Rather, in all the cases I can think of, the quoted text effectively becomes a noun. Without the quotes the sentence would often have invalid syntax.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 13:42

3 Answers 3


Putting quotes around something is called scare quotes. They are only used when:

a) the term is being used in a non-standard way b) to mark off irony

I assume that you are not using "bar" in an ironic context, so it boils down to a question: are you using "bar" in a non-standard way? For example, you wouldn't put quotes around the following:

DNA is sometimes divided into nucleotides.

You would use quotes if you said:

DNA is sometimes divided into "letters."

Because "letter" is a non-standard term in the context of DNA, it needs scare quotes.


If you are trying to emphasize a word/phrase, never use quotes! Use italics instead.

  • 1
    Is it still scare quotes when saying "what is called" beforehand? The OP is saying what someone called it, reporting what someone was said. While I agree with your analysis about the usage of scare quotes in general, I'm not convinced that's what would be happening here. Rather, I think any use of quotation marks here would be their traditional usage for indicating what someone said, or in this case, someone "called." Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 6:34

The solution is to foo, producing what is called a "bar".

The solution is to foo, producing what is called a bar.

According to Three Editors Blog - last rule in the article: You can use either quotes or italics. I would classify the quoted word here words as words. We often use italics for words used as words, but we can also use quotation marks.

Additionally, according to APA Style Blog - paragraph 2: The APA Manual (on p. 105) recommends using italics for the “introduction of a new, technical, or key term or label," adding "(after a term has been used once, do not italicize it).”

Thus, it seems that both may be acceptable but lean toward italics.


You would use quotation marks. You're reporting what it is "called." When you borrow a word or phrase from someone else as I just did from you, then that is precisely what quotation marks are for.

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