As some questions (Rule for quotes, When giving IPA codes and a translation, which comes first ?, Do not use code blocks for quoting) and some chat conversations are dealing with particular typography and formatting issues, I think we have to set down a typography guide, e.g. like Wikipedia's one.

This should be a community wiki, dealing with aforementioned issues and some others, namely

  • How do one format
    • Quotations
    • Foreign words/phrases/sentences (that is to say, in a language different from the surrounding Q/A/C)
    • IPA transcriptions
    • Emphasis in these various contexts
  • Which kind of quotes could be used to preserve consistency and legibility
  • Possibly style-related issues (passive/active personal/impersonal question/affirmation formulation of question's titles...)
  • Any typographic or style -related issue that could confuse FLUsers

Note that I don't suggest a foolish consistency — which is the hobgoblin of little minds — enforcement sacred book but rather a guide to help potentially confused FLUsers (me included) keep a legible and consistent style.


2 Answers 2


These are the most popular propositions so far. Note that these are merely guidelines, and not intended as strict policy rules.


The choice of quote mark is dictated by the surrounding language, independently of the quoted language. If the surrounding language is English, use English quotes:

My dad said “no”, when I asked him for a ‘Nintendo’.

Use french quote marks if the surrounding language is French:

Il a dit qu'il y avait « une stalagmite dans la cave » ! Bien sûr, il voulait dire grotte, c'était juste une traduction maladroite de l'anglais « a stalagmite in the cave ».

Use quote marks to put emphasis on the speaker, on the origin of the quotation. Use italics to put emphasis on the quotation itself. E.g. if you are writing about the word whistle, use italics, if you are writing about the saying “there is honour among thieves”, use quotes.


Italics is also commonly used to strengthen the meaning of a word. Bold might be used with this same purpose, but in most cases italics is sufficient unless strong insistence is needed.

Foreign words

To use words in a different language, again, use italics, comme ceci. If you are quoting in a foreign language, you can use both as in “les chiens ne font pas des chats”.


You can use code formatting for IPA transcriptions, as in [aɪ.pi.eɪ tɹeɪnskɹipʃəns].


Translations are always welcomed, though only for French and English. Please separate the two version with an horizontal rule and keep the original version at top.

  • Somewhat popular is the proposition to allow doublequotes OR guillemets in French sentences too, as some popular online French publications do. This makes it easier for those with a QWERTY keyboard, and they don't have to bother installing some user script.
    – Jez
    Sep 12, 2011 at 8:03
  • 1
    @Jez: There is no such thing as an allowance. Everyone may do as he want, those with proper guillemets-ed keyboard may change doublequotes to guillemets in French sentences, though.
    – Evpok
    Sep 12, 2011 at 12:42

Why enforce rules unless we feel a need for them? Unlike Wikipedia, FL&U’s goal is not to create a coherent body of work with a uniform tone and presentation. We’re a Q&A site, so questions aren’t uniform by nature, and answers don’t have to be either.

In addition to this fundamental difference, if we have to choose and enforce rules, we lose diversity. That looks bad for a Q&A site describe something as varied as an evolving language. Why shouldn’t we let our participants from Switzerland (and those other who want to) use «Swiss spacing» around guillemets? And so on.

The StackExchange network itself has some style conventions, revealed by the wiki syntax and the graphic editor. These we enforce, but apart from that, we should strive at the minimal amount of additional formating rules. They would steepen the adoption curve of the site.

Or, to put it in a « descriptive/prescriptive perspective »[1], if it follows one of the accepted usages, why shouldn't we allow it?

[1] try saying that fast ten times ;-)

  • Read my last sentence, this is intended as a helping hand for those looking for already existent conventions. I don't suggest overriding any coherent style
    – Evpok
    Aug 27, 2011 at 20:19
  • 1
    Then beware of things like “should be used”, “harmonizing the typography and overall style”, etc. They suggest that you’re after rules, rather than guidelines. I strongly oppose the former.
    – F'x
    Aug 27, 2011 at 21:12
  • Question edited accordingly.
    – Evpok
    Aug 27, 2011 at 21:27

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