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?


  • Question six. Spell the word 'furlong'.
  • I think that this question would be better fit for Writers.SE because it's about style
    – user10893
    Sep 11, 2011 at 0:01
  • The answer is regional for " compared to ' and for punctuation inside or outside.
    – GEdgar
    Sep 11, 2011 at 0:02
  • What do you mean by "mention"? Sep 11, 2011 at 8:41
  • 1
    It's not so trivial if one doesn't have that reference book. However, I now have the answer, so feel free to close the question. (I would ask about comma usage in the previous sentence, but that might be considered trivial.)
    – xpda
    Jul 30, 2012 at 23:57
  • 1
    It really depends on the context and the medium. What is practical terms of formatting here in the SE forums is different from what you can do in a book or magazine, or in a Word-formatted document. Also, you must consider the other "competitors" for emphasis, and not create confusion or ambiguity. And then there's the "house style" for magazines and journals.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 2, 2015 at 19:48

4 Answers 4


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 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.


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.

  • 1
    This can depend on the manual of style being adhered to.
    – Luke_0
    Dec 16, 2013 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.

Good question! I think that any of the three would be acceptable, but I tend to usually use double quotes. For example: Write the word "light" on the piece of paper.

However, it isn't correct to put punctuation outside quotes. This is the proper way to mention words: Write the words "paper," "chair," and "backpack."

This website has some good information: Quotation Marks | Punctuation Rules. Rule 3a says that punctuation goes inside quotes. Rule 5b says that you should never use single quotes unless they are inside double quotes.

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