If you have ever wondered how to set off a long quotation in a blog post, a report, an email, or another document, this blog post is for you and Laura.
Laura, who manages her company's intranet, emailed me to ask how to render long quotations. She wrote, "We do stories each day and often need to copy text from other sites. How do I correctly punctuate long copied passages?"
Laura's words, which I quoted above, are not long, and I chose to run them in to the surrounding text, setting off the quotation with a comma and quotation marks. That approach works well for short quotations. Note: My example uses the American English style of double quotation marks ("); the British English style uses single quotation marks (').
I might also have set off her words as a block quotation, like this:
Laura wrote with this concern:
We do stories each day and often need to copy text from other sites. How do I correctly punctuate long copied passages?
You can see that the block quotation is indented and has no quotation marks. It is formatted single-spaced. The quotation can be indented just on the left side or on both sides. Of course, it is easier to indent both sides in a printed document than it is online. Sometimes block quotations are also rendered in a different font.
According to The Gregg Reference Manual, a less common way to handle a long quote is like this example, which includes Laura's entire message:
"May I ask you a question? I can’t seem to find a consistent answer online.
"I manage our intranet at work. We do stories each day and often need to copy text from other sites. How do I correctly punctuate long copied passages?"
You noticed that the quoted material is not indented. The quotation is set off with opening quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph, but the closing quotation mark appears only at the end of the quotation.
I admit having combined the two approaches in the past, apparently incorrectly. When I published Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time, my copyeditor pointed out my error.
Somewhere I had learned to both indent and use quotation marks for a block quote. But not one of my reference manuals that discuss block quotations–not The Chicago Manual of Style, The Gregg Reference Manual, Garner's Modern American Usage, or Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association–even mentions that approach. That means I must have learned the rule incorrectly.
My course Punctuation for Professionals can help you learn or relearn the rules of punctuation. Try it for free.