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I've noticed several instances of code spans (Created with a pair of ` backticks) being used to format words or phrases in another language. Should we consider this type of formatting proper, or do we change it to double quotation marks (or something else)?

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  • why do you think this is important? – Trident D'Gao Jun 14 '12 at 19:18
  • @bonomo If it wasn't, formatting wouldn't be an issue on the internet, while it's as important as the content. – Alenanno Jun 24 '12 at 20:03
  • 1. it's not necessary (take a look at legal documents) and 2. has its caveats especially when the rich formatting is lost at copying/pasting to the plain text – Trident D'Gao Jun 24 '12 at 20:16
  • @bonomo nothing is really necessary except for food and water. That's not a good reason to stop progress. Also, nothing is stopping us from adding quote marks around quote spans with :before and :after. – kotekzot Jun 24 '12 at 20:36
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In the early days of English Language & Usage, people there strived to enforce the well-known convention of italicizing inlined words and phrases (not necessarily in another language). Apart from its being a generally accepted practice, it is aesthetically pleasing. Examples abound:

Example 1

Example 2

Myself, I am partial towards the view that [code][/code] should only be used for, well, code. Using the backticks for formatting inlined words and phrases is indicative of a programming background, e.g. StackOverflow. Also, see this question and Rahul Narain's answer on EL&U.Meta.

On a tangentially related note, I also suggest using single inverted commas for inlined translations of preceding Russian words and phrases, as in this question of mine:

I certainly find the phrase **белый большой дом* ‘white big house’ to be infelicitous under most circumstances and would prefer большой белый дом ‘big white house’.

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  • In my experience, translation notes come in round parentheses, as they are not part of the sentence. Is there any particular reason you prefer single quotation marks? I agree that code should be reserved for actual code. – kotekzot Jun 15 '12 at 2:51
  • @kotekzot Some (admittedly limited) experience with inline glosses in the language-related references I have read and consulted apart, no particular reason at all. Also, as Cerberus pointed out in the EL&U chatroom, you'd have to watch out for ambiguities with bare parentheses. He is more experienced with the formatting practices than I am anyway, and he kindly offered to comment on this issue. – Vitaly Jun 15 '12 at 3:45
  • Haha, OK, then comment I shall. I have no problem with 'single quotation marks', "doubles", (round brackets), or ("both"); I have seen all four used in academic literature. There is a small catch with simple round brackets: because they are regularly used for other things in similar contexts, they can sometimes be ambiguous, when they are mistaken for something other than a translation gloss. I have encountered such cases. So one should be aware of the possibility. ... – Cerberus Jun 15 '12 at 3:49
  • ... As to quotation marks plus brackets, that is what I personally prefer over quotation marks only, precisely because a translation is functionally parenthetical. However, some find using quotation marks and brackets together a bit superfluous and clutter-like. And we have other situations where we do not mark parenthesis either, as in father Christmas, or as in the article 'Feline Metabolism'. So I think just quotation marks is also fine, although I usually do not use this style myself. At any rate, all three styles are usually fine, and it really doesn't matter much. – Cerberus Jun 15 '12 at 3:49
  • Thanks for the clarification! I'll be fine with whatever formatting style we adopt as our guideline as long as it's uniformly applied and widely accepted in academic literature. – Vitaly Jun 15 '12 at 3:53
  • @Cerberus thanks for your input, that sounds fairly reasonable. I'm still holding my breath for inline quotes, but if that's not an option I'm going to support italics + translation in parentheses/quotation marks. – kotekzot Jun 15 '12 at 3:57
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I suggest using code spans only for Linguistics interlinear gloss, like:

я        читаю   книгу.
I        read    book
Subject  Verb    Direct Object

And use blockquotes, italics, etc, for other things.

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In my opinion double quotation is low contrast, it doesn't emphasize the key words and phrases in a passage, making it much harder to get a point of a question by quick looking at it.

So I suggest (a deliberate) use of code spans to make texts easier to read.

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