When I wrote my master’s thesis on vague language, I often cited vague words and phrases. At first I put them in quotation marks, but the quotes cluttered the pages, and by the time I was ready to publish, I wondered if I should use italics instead. I used APA style*, so I consulted my APA Manual and I found that, indeed, you should use italics for “a letter, word or phrase cited as a linguistic example” (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 105). Some examples offered in the APA Manual are:
words such as big and little
the letter a
the meaning of to fit tightly together
a row of Xs
Unfortunately, I didn’t learn this until the day before I submitted my thesis for publication, so I had to go through a hundred pages changing “sort of” to sort of, “threeish” to threeish, and so on. I hope this little blog post saves others the time I spent undoing my errors.
* Chicago and MLA style manuals call for the use of italics for linguistic examples as well.
American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Greene, D. J. (2013). Keeping it vague: A study of vague language in an American Sign Language corpus and implications for interpreting between American Sign Language and English. (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.wou.edu/theses/2/
Modern Language Association. (2008). MLA style manual and guide to scholarly publishing (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Modern Language Association.
University of Chicago. (2010). The Chicago manual of style (16th ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.