How to write queries from Google software engineer Matt Cutts is a nice look at how Googlers internally represent queries, so that everyone knows what was actually entered in the search box. It's a good approach and one I'll be adopting in general, for the most part.
Being clear about queries is crucial. Sometimes people do a phrase search, which brings back radically different results that a regular search. But the same people may not indicate this has happened, when writing about the search.
Matt says that Googlers surround queries as entered into the search box with the bracket symbols. So if you searched for red balls and wanted to say that, you'd write:
If you did a phrase search, one where quotes surround the phrase, you write:
How about a more complicated search:
["red balls" -blue site:balls.com]
Personally, I think it also helps to think of the brackets as a visual representation of the search box. Picture them as both sides of the search box, with whatever you searched for being placed within that box. Easy!
As said, I'll be doing this going forward when it makes sense. In general, my preference for showing what I searched for is to turn the search into an exact link. So if I looked for red balls, I hyperlink the query so you can see exactly what I saw.
That's also helpful because the search box model alone doesn't tell you whether you saw a certain number of results, used a particular edition of a search engine and so on. But you can't always hyperlink, so it's nice to have the bracket idea.
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