For word/phrase request questions, is there a convention for highlighting the example word given?

In this answer https://english.stackexchange.com/a/169794/37273 I used bold, and somebody changed it to italics.

What is the convention here?

  • By the way, generally speaking, edits should do more than just alter formatting. If the editor is making other changes they may choose to alter formatting to match the typical patterns used on ELU.
    – MrHen
    May 12, 2014 at 20:55
  • That being said, you should NOT rollback a styling edit just because you disagree with it.
    – MrHen
    May 12, 2014 at 20:55
  • 2
    @MrHen and why not? Isn't this a matter of aesthetics? I understand the need to reformat a text comprised only of caps, a block of solid text etc. Bold, italics, and quotes are there to assist the reader, but if an individual wishes to put two or three words in bold he shouldn't be scorned in public. If someone decides to reformat an answer because they honestly believe the edit will improve readability, then that's fine too. However, if the poster disagrees and wishes to rollback that's his prerogative. The post is his, the emphasis his, the aesthetic judgement his.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 13, 2014 at 6:03
  • @Mari-LouA: Because this is primarily a matter of aesthetics and these kinds of aesthetics are not "big enough" edits to justify editing the post on their own. These kinds of edits tend to provoke edit wars which lead to drama and drama is bad. In the end, it's not worth it.
    – MrHen
    May 13, 2014 at 12:53
  • @MrHen - So it is OK to edit a post for minor styling issues but not to roll it back? May 13, 2014 at 15:34
  • I don't think it is okay to either (a) edit a post for minor styling issues or (b) rollback an edit for minor styling issues. A rollback is just another form of edit; two wrongs don't make a right.
    – MrHen
    May 13, 2014 at 15:42

1 Answer 1


Mentions are generally in italics, and emphasis is indicated with bold.

You can use can to indicate ability, reserving may to express permission, although in informal situations can generally works for may.

Keeping the two typographical conventions distinct means that it’s possible to combine them when you want to emphasise a mention.

So we have

Give some context would fit.


I have a specific problem I need to solve, but first, I need to give you some context.

Maintaining a convention for the use-mention distinction doesn’t mean that italics and bold may not be used elsewhere (for example, I would probably set per se in italics), but mentions should be italicised.

A similar question was asked over three years ago, and the advice there has generally been followed to the extent that now it’s the norm here and you may find that posts are edited to conform to it.

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