At ELU, blockquotes are used quite frequently:

I'm a fancy blockquote. I'm used to elaborate and give examples, as well as quote other people and posts.

However the nearest thing we have to an inline quote in the markdown format is using a pair of `'s, which are meant for inline blocks of code.

Here's how those look in context:

'Inline quotes'

As you can see, they have a light-gray background, which looks a bit out of place, and the monospace font doesn't help either (I think this is meant for programming-related StackExchange sites).

The short (kind of) question

Should we have different formatting for inline code/quotes that is more similar to the blockquote formatting?


  • It would be possible to have double backticks ([backtick][backtick][stuff][backtick][backtick]) parse to <q> elements (which are meant for short quotes), and have a pretty non-technical appearance similar to that of blockquotes. Single backticks would still parse the same (to <code>).
  • The equivalent for inline quoting is what you normally use when writing in English: " or '.
    – apaderno
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 10:05

1 Answer 1


I agree that the ugly and freakily colored monospace that you get from backquotes makes next to no sense and is a real pain. In fact, I talk about that in this question.

But one real exception is that we have no other ways of doing tables for a code block. And yes, there really are times that you want exact column placement.

(S (NP (NP The dial)
       (PP of
           (NP (NP (NP Dudley 's)
               (SBAR (WHNP which)
               (PP of
                   (NP (NP (NP Dudley 's)
                       (SBAR (WHNP which)
                             (S (VP was
                                    (VP dangling
                                        (PP over
                                            (NP (NP the edge)
                                                (PP of
                                                    (NP the sofa))))
                                        (PP on
                                            (NP his fat wrist))))))))   
   (VP told
       (NP Harry)
       (SBAR [that]
                  (S (NP he)
                     (VP 'd
                         (VP be
                             (NP eleven)
                             (PP in
                                 (NP (NP ten minutes ')

Gosh! That looks even worse here on Meta than on Main, doesn’t it?

One further issue is that you don’t have to figure out how to escape or otherwise “entify” HTML literals in backticks, allowing you to write a simple <hr> or whatnot instead of being forced to resort to icky entities. Even if we fixed the backtick styling, we still have the escaping issue.

Now, how often we need to do that on ELU compared with on more programming-centric sites is probably exceedingly tiny — but not, perhaps nonexistent.

  • Thanks; this is helpful insight and your other question is of interest. Tiny off-topic question: how can I feasibly type the prettier unsymmetrical quotes (“ ” ’)?
    – Chris
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:01
  • @Abody97 In Windows, Alt-0145, 0146, 0147 and 0148 are left and right single quotes and left and right double quotes, respectively. Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:05
  • 1
    @tchrist Perhaps there might be a case for redefining backticks for prettier output, and adding double-backticks for "code" output? That would be similar to the way single and double asterisks work. Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:06
  • @StJohnoftheCross Thanks! I'm not sure that's practical, though; but if that's how everyone does it, I guess I'll have to live with it.
    – Chris
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:07
  • @StJohnoftheCross I have a feeling the StackExchange team never want to modify their markdown parsers (judging by responses to other questions). I'll add an edit with that idea, though; it's a good one.
    – Chris
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:09
  • @Abody97 If you are on a Mac, it is trivial because these are all done with a single keystroke. For example, Alt-[ is and Shift-Alt-[ is , while Alt-] is and Shift-Alt-] is . I’ve gotten so used to it that I type them automatically now. It is even easier to type things like café avec une naïve façade à la jalapeños, because those have better mnemonics. For example, to add an acute accent to things to make a precomposed-character in the Unicode Normalization Form C, you just type Alt-E before the letter: é, á, í, etc. Otherwise you may have to type in all 4–6 Unicode digits.
    – tchrist Mod
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:09
  • @tchrist Yet-another reason to get a Mac. I'll see what I come up with.
    – Chris
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:11
  • 1
    @Abody97 Actually, I never ever ever type in all 4–6 Unicode digits. Rather, I use “murine snarf-n-barf” as needed against a page with what I need in it. Using an IPA soft-keyboard like that one can help for more tedious but still reasonably routine tasks. For the hardest stuff, I type a shell command line that says exactly what I want to do. I have a million little one-liner helper scripts to do things like ̲u̲n̲d̲e̲r̲l̲i̲n̲i̲n̲g̲ ̲ or thin spaces or lots of other things.
    – tchrist Mod
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:15
  • @tchrist And you bind those scripts to keyboard shortcuts?
    – Chris
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:19
  • @StJohnoftheCross (Edited the question; see what you think).
    – Chris
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:20
  • 1
    @Abody97 Nope, I hit Alt-Tab to swap to my shell, type something like echo underlining | unititle or perl -E 'say "thin\N{THIN SPACE}spaces"' to my shell, then grab its output with the mouse and paste it into the browser window.
    – tchrist Mod
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:21
  • @tchrist Pretty nice. Thanks for sharing!
    – Chris
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:25
  • 1
    @Abody97 MDN says "Most modern standards-aware browsers, like Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Safari, should add quotes around text enclosed within the <q> element," which may not be desirable and will probably have to be styled out with quotes:none. But <q> appears to be the correct HTML5 element. Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:35
  • @Abody97 For Windows, you can create your own custom keyboard layout: msdn.microsoft.com/en-US/goglobal/bb964665.aspx . Commented Mar 23, 2013 at 5:47
  • @coleopterist Oh this is awesome. Thanks!
    – Chris
    Commented Mar 23, 2013 at 22:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .