By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Style question

Another one for the brain trust. When I use block quotes, I do not use quotation marks. I’ve got an example from this morning — my post on the McCain op-ed. The indented text is a direct quote from McCain’s unpublished piece.

Now, that’s pretty standard in publishing, whether you’re talking about magazines, books or academic papers. But such conventions do not necessarily travel all that well to the Web. I received a comment a little while ago from someone who was confused.

Although I can’t scare up an example at the moment, I have seen blogs that use indents for block quotes and quotation marks. It’s a little bit like using a belt and suspenders, but I’d rather make it too clear that I’m quoting than not clear enough.

What do you think?

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  1. Anonymous

    Use on or the other. Not both.I suggest you stick with the indent.

  2. Deehan

    I don’t see the harm in both. With text churning through any number of syndication feeds then bouncing from place to place on the net, you could easily lose those indents. Conventions change and we change with it.

  3. Anonymous

    EB3 here,so now you have sunk so low as to chasitise the dim witted who forget how to read.Shame Shame Shame

  4. Anonymous

    You may be able to make your blockquotes more ‘blockquotey’ for lack of a better term. If this continues to become a problem, maybe changing the background color or drawing a full box around your blockquotes would emphasize that they’re different from the rest of your post

  5. Anonymous

    I agree with Anonymous in theory that “using both” would be wrong according to any reasonable book of print style.However, many a blog stylesheet sets CSS style for blockquote to include a background image (no repeat, align top left, possibly offset into left or upper margin of the quote) with a muted pastel giant quotation mark. If page has interesting background of its own, needs transparency. and use both start end end quotes as if they were text quotes , I don’t like it, it’s still wrong with block indent which defines the start/stop scope.I prefer a subtle ” image to indicate why there is a block indent, to distinguish a real quotation blockquote from any other abuse of indentation. is better, but ugly choice of font for the quote logo. is subtler, colonizes the upper whitespace not left. (I thought he’d previously had pale yellow quotes _under_ the text, just peaking out to the left, but I guess he’s changed it.)Bill R

  6. zadig

    You can customize blockquote in your stylesheet to drop a big ol’ set of quotation marks around the block to symbolize that it’s a quote. Kinda pretty, too. See this link for an example.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    EB3: I think it’s a real issue; otherwise, I wouldn’t have brought it up. I like the idea of some sort of quotation-mark design in the background, and I’m going to see if I can do it when I choose a new template for Media Nation — sometime in the next few months perhaps.Far from chastising you, I took your confusion as a sign that others may be confused as well.

  8. mike_b1

    I’ve always recognized block quotes as excerpted text and not needed additional formatting.

  9. Anonymous

    EB3 here,dan, Lighten – up.i know.

  10. Dan Kennedy

    EB3: Sorry. I thought you were genuinely offended. Sometimes I can’t tell.

  11. Anonymous

    I don’t know whether this is why some blogs use both, but oftentimes indentation doesn’t come through properly in RSS feeds. I’ve often seen paragraphs in RSS readers that I only realized were quotes because of context, or because I clicked through and saw they were indented on the actual site; it wouldn’t surprise me if there have been other cases where I failed to realize something was a block quote. So the quotation marks can provide a valuable backstop, even if they look redundant (which they do).

  12. Howard Owens

    Block quotes shouldn’t have quotes.But I bet I’ve done it.

  13. Ari Herzog

    My Blogger tamplate design uses a big quotation mark at the start of any blockquote, added by a gray background color for the block.In an RSS feed, the block is merely indented without any big quote or color.See my post today on nuclear waste as an example.

  14. Jerry

    Chicago style (U of Chicago Stylebook) would say you have it right — indented block quotes don’t need quotes as well. But Chicago style also would say that you should do whatever you need to do to make things clear to the reader. Ergo, if readers seem confused, give ’em both.

  15. Al Toid

    Hi Dan,I’m pretty anal-retentive and after working in a web company where we had to handle everything from people viewing the pages on cell phones, to lynx (an old text based browser) to the standard web browsers, I usually push for clarity over brevity.I’d use both, because while the indent works on most, it might not work on all and between the two you’re sure that even the worst browser will get your message across.Good luck, Dan.-Al

  16. lovable liberal

    Using a block quote when quoting printed material, you don’t need outer quotes, but a quote within the block quote still needs its quotation marks. Yep, you knew that; that’s not the hard case.The hard case is something said that the linked story reports, and I prefer quotation marks there for clarity, even if the story only added “she said.”For McCain literature, no marks.However, I make no claim that I have been consistent about this.

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