You can format quotes: is this right? or is "this" right?

In other words, would you say

Like this or "Like this"?

I sometimes edit to make the change to the first.

  • I voted up but still I don't understand what you are asking. Can you expand your example to be clear what "this" in "is this right" refers to? Sep 6, 2013 at 23:38
  • @Theta30 Nothing really. Just filler text. Sep 9, 2013 at 4:40
  • @Theta30 Like goo.gl/qB5sD5 vs i.imgur.com/ScQufqF.png Sep 9, 2013 at 4:41
  • ok, I understand now. Note there is even a third possible variant I saw, "cheerled" i.e. Italics+quotations Sep 9, 2013 at 5:53

4 Answers 4


Italic type has a few specific uses:

  • Emphasis
  • Titles, foreign words, and some names
  • Use-mention distinction, definitions, and examples
  • Quoting thoughts (as opposed to speech or writing)
  • Mathematical and scientific symbols

When quoting speech or writing, you should use quotation marks, not italics. When writing example phrases or sentences, you can use either.

I recommend against editing solely to adjust italic/quotation style, especially in the cases where either would be appropriate.

  • 4
    +1. I would also recommend against editing when one doesn't fully understand when either would be appropriate.
    – J.R.
    Sep 7, 2013 at 7:41
  • When quoting speech or writing in this site, there is the blockquote syntax > which is preferable to using quotation marks, especially for phrases and sentences.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Sep 12, 2013 at 7:09
  • @Andrew: 'preferable' by what criterion? Paragraphs, certainly: sentences, probably; phrases? How about "'preferable'" in my first sentence? Sep 12, 2013 at 9:33
  • +1 @AndrewLeach It seems jarring to break the flow into chunks ( via > ) when quoting a phrase, be it short, anonymous, or both. For emphasis, however, doing so seems clearer (to me anyway). @ TimL You ask '"'preferable'"' about "'preferable'" in your first sentence, but I'm feeling too quotalacious (tm) now to answer... ;-P Sep 17, 2013 at 1:39

In writing about language and languages, there are more conventions to follow.
A short list of how a professional uses the formatting available here can be found
at the end of this answer.


On this site, italics have a particular use, of mentioning the word rather than using it. If you want to know the etymology of the word elephant you don't, obviously, ask "What does elephant come from?" unless you want the answer "A mummy elephant". "What does "elephant" come from?" is not right either, since it refers to a quotation; presumably "Elephant!" came from somebody's unexpected meeting with an elephant. "What does 'elephant' come from?" is acceptable in normal speech, but on ELU there is more use of words-as-mention than most places, and also a divergence of opinion about straight quotes or curly quotes (as here), so the usual wording is "what does elephant come from?" This isn't as common in the outside world, though it's by no means unusual.

  • I suppose this level of detail is down to personal preference, but I would never italicise ‘elephant’ in that context: I would put it in single, curly quotes. Double quotes = direct quote; single quotes = word-as-mention; italics = non-English word (or reconstructed forms); italics in double quotes = directly quoting a non-English word; italics in single quotes = non-English word-as-mention. The latter two are, admittedly, fairly rare. Sep 30, 2013 at 17:41

In my experience, quote marks if you know and can identify the author. Italics are fine for titles and unattributable sayings.

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