So, are single quotes, double quotes or italics most appropriate here?

I know, I know – similar questions have been asked before, but after reading so many answers here and elsewhere my intuitions have been scrambled and I have lost confidence in my normal practice…

Stylistics originally developed out of what was known in the past as ‘rhetoric’.

Stylistics originally developed out of what was known in the past as “rhetoric”.

Stylistics originally developed out of what was known in the past as rhetoric.

Normally (and throughout the previous hundred+ pages I have just proof-read) I would have favoured single quotation marks to indicate that I am mentioning rather than using a word. I’m reluctant to introduce an inconsistency into my proofing, but somehow the single quotation marks look quite wrong in these sentences – the single quotation marks seem to suggest an unusual word or a non-standard use, whereas italics seems much more natural. Is there actually a subtle difference that I can’t quite coax into consciousness? Or am I just tired…?

Similarly, ‘philology’, linguistics’ and ‘stylistics’ in the following sentences (bolded just to highlight the words I am talking about):

During the nineteenth century rhetoric was incorporated into linguistics, which was known at that time as philology.

The emphasis shifted to other areas of language which all fall under the umbrella of linguistics. [Neither quotation marks nor italics for ‘linguistics’ in this sentence?]

After that, in the 1960s, the sub-discipline known as stylistics was born.


You’re one hundred pages in and you haven’t yet consulted your manual of style? If the person for whom you’re proofreading hasn’t mandated one, then you both should agree on one. I prefer the Chicago Manual of Style, which provides the following advice:

  • Key terms or terms of art should be set in italic type on first reference and in roman thereafter:

    We must consider actual malice in US defamation law.

  • Technical terms, especially when they appear with a definition are “often set” according to the rule above.

    The continuum is the cardinality of the real numbers.

  • Word referred to as words, particular when they’re terms “are commonly italicized”:

    When I use the word roman in lower case, I’m talking about a type style and not a resident of the Italian city.

Be aware of the following considerations and exceptions to the above:

  • Technical terms that conflict with standard usage are “often enclosed in quotation marks.”

    The term “rent” in economics refers to excess payment in a transaction, and not money paid to landlords.

  • Works of philosophy and theology prefer single quotes to italics or double quotes (with punctuation placed outside):

    Kant defines the opposite of ‘transcendent’ as ‘immanent’.

  • For words referred to as words within speech “quotation marks sometimes serve better”:

    Beavis interrupted Butthead for a characteristic comment on the latter’s use of the word “wood”.

  • If you’re using quotation marks, be careful not to collide with their use to indicate irony.

    We “pacified” the villages with B-52 misssions.

Source : Link , Question Author : Majdnem , Answer Author : deadrat

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