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How to Render Long Quotations

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.

Our course Punctuation for Professionals can help you learn or relearn the rules of punctuation. Try it for free.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

4 comments on “How to Render Long Quotations”

  • Lynn
    Here’s my question. Can TM and (R) show up in the same word? An author has done that for a word within the title of her book.

    Also, in running text, does the TM (superscript) go before or after the period if it’s at the end of a sentence?

  • Hi, Barbara. Interesting questions! According to “The Chicago Manual of Style,” the (R) stands for a registered trademark, and TM stands for an unregistered trademark. I am not sure why the author would use both. “Chicago” also suggests omitting them whenever possible.

    As for punctuation with TM, “Chicago” places the symbol before any punctuation mark.


  • Hi, Wayne. “The Gregg Reference Manual” recommends not indenting paragraphs, instead using a blank line between them.

    It adds, however, that “if paragraph indention was called for in the original,” you should indent the paragraphs and not leave a blank line between them.


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