Wikipedia:Quotations

A quotation from Thoreau

Quotations—often informally called quotes—provide information directly; quoting a brief excerpt from an original source can sometimes explain things better and less controversially than trying to explain them in one's own words. This page sets out guidelines for using quotations in Wikipedia articles, from a style, formatting and copyright perspective.

Comparison with paraphrasesEdit

Quotations vs. paraphrases
Quotations Paraphrases
Definitions Verbatim text, enclosed by quotation marks or set off by other formatting elements (such as block-indenting) Text based on a source, but rephrased in Wikipedia editors' own words
Verbatim text Yes, usually an unedited, exact reproduction of the original source, with any alterations (such as corrections or abridgements) clearly marked as such No, the meaning of the original source is faithfully preserved, but is restated with different words
Formatting elements Yes, quote marks or formatting clearly indicate where the quotation begins and ends No, paraphrases are not distinguished from the running text

Both quotations and paraphrases must be attributed to their sources.

Quotation examplesEdit

  1. This attitude to art and life can be summarized by Wilde's maxim, "When a truth becomes a fact it loses all its intellectual value."[1]
  2. In response to the RICO Act allegations, FooBarCo executive Pat Chung issued a statement that "Our entire legal department reviewed the plan before launch; they were certain then and now that it raises no racketeering red-flags of any kind."[2]
  3. A McMaster University research team lead by geneticist Sam D. McNabb, working with embryos from seven different species, published a paper in Nature in 2015, reporting that: "The gene we have isolated is almost certainly responsible for triggering embryonic differentiation of the cells that eventually become the mammalian cochlea."[3] Although awaiting further testing to confirm it beyond the placental mammals used in the research to date, with cochlear experiments on platypus and wallaby scheduled for 2016, the study concluded that "a different gene for this in monotremes or marsupials is highly improbable".[3]

Paraphrasing examplesEdit

"Stated", "said", and "wrote" imply a fairly direct paraphrase, of a specific party (how direct may depend on whether the original material is creative or hypothesizing, versus purely factual):

  1. This attitude to art and life was expressed by Oscar Wilde, who said that truths lose their intellectual value when they become facts.[1]
  2. In response to the RICO Act allegations, executive Pat Chung stated that FooBarCo's legal department had reviewed the plan for any possible violations of the law, and found none.[2]
  3. A Canadian research team wrote in a 2015 Nature paper that they have likely isolated the gene that triggers embryonic cochlear cell differentiation, in placental mammals and probably throughout the zoological class.[3]

Other less precise words usually have a less strict interpretation (but see WP:Manual of Style/Words to watch, with regard to "claimed", "alleged", and other often "loaded" terms):

  1. This post-modernist[4] attitude to art and life can be expressed in the truth-info-fact maxim,[1] that a widely held but unproven "truth", which may have a rich history of philosophical interpretation,[4] may lose its intellectual value by the time research has reduced it to a mere fact, which may be verified yet excised from its cultural context.[5]
  2. In response to the RICO Act allegations, FooBarCo indicated[2] that its legal department had cleared the plan.
  3. A Nature paper[3] announced in 2015 the identification of the gene thought to initiate cochlear development.

Note that the (optional) relocation of the citation in the final and much less direct examples indicates that the source is certain but that the wording is Wikipedia's summarization of, and/or integration with other, source material. This is a courtesy to any readers doing research, signaling that they may need to review the original source for the particulars, which may be more meaningful in their original context. It is also a good-faith way to help other editors assessing the article to decide whether they need to examine this contextualization (whether by integration, compression of verbiage, or dropping of details) exhibits correct source interpretation and no original analysis or synthesis.

General guidelinesEdit

Quotations are a good way to comply with the no original research policy but they must be used with care. Quotations must be verifiably attributed to a reliable source (see Wikipedia:Verifiability § Burden of evidence). Wikipedia guidelines for proper attribution of quotations are found in WP:MOSQUOTE and WP:CITE. Attribution should be provided in the text of the article, not exclusively in a footnote or citation. Readers should not have to follow a footnote to find out the quotation's source.

Unsourced quotations may be removed at any time; however, a good-faith search for a source before removal is appreciated (see WP:UNSOURCED and WP:PRESERVE). If the quotation is not controversial or a violation of WP:BLP, you can use a "citation needed" ({{cn}}) template for a few days. If no-one provides a citation and you can't find one yourself, feel free to delete the quoted text.

Quotations should be representative of the whole source document; editors should be very careful not to quote material out of context to avoid misrepresenting the meanings and intentions of the source.

Quotations that presents rhetorical language in place of the neutral, dispassionate tone preferred for encyclopedias can be an underhand method of inserting a non-neutral treatment of a controversial subject into Wikipedia articles; be very careful. We encourage the inclusion and use of all reliable sources—including biased ones—but biased and point-of-view (POV) content must be reliably sourced and POV language must be quoted and attributed, rather than stated in Wikipedia's voice. Our neutral point of view (NPOV) policy requires editors to avoid biasing content in a direction that is different from that of the original source, neither by censorship, omission, neutralization/neutering or overemphasis.

For copyright-free and public domain material, use of quotation marks is not required by copyright but they must be used to avoid plagiarism and to provide clear attribution of the quoted material to the original author(s). At a minimum, the text must be attributed and given a footnote or a link to the original text must be provided. For copyrighted material, see below. For copyright-free and public domain material, longer quotations than would be allowed under "fair use" of copyrighted material may often be used.

FormattingEdit

Do not put quotations in italics unless the quoted material would otherwise call for italics, such as for emphasis and the use of non-English words (see the Manual of Style). Indicate whether italics were used in the original text or whether they were added later. For example:

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest! [emphasis added]

Quotations must always be clearly identified as such using double quotation marks ("quoted text") for quotations shorter than about 40 words. For quotations longer than 40 words, use the HTML tag <blockquote>like this around quoted material</blockquote> or the template {{Quote}}, which has optional parameters to include citations. Both of these methods set text apart from non-quoted material. You don't need to add quotation marks when using the <blockquote> tag or the template {{quote}}.

If you're quoting material that includes a quotation of its own, use single quotation marks to identify the internal quotation. For example:

  • According to Bob Jones, "PC Dave Generic said the alien spacecraft 'was a very unusual thing to behold' ".

For information about the use of punctuation with quotations, including the use of quotation marks within quotations, see the Manual of Style: "Quotations".

Any alterations to quoted material must be clearly marked. Use square brackets [like this] for elided text or for added emphasis. Examples:

  • Police officer Dave Generic said, "Never in my life have I ever seen such a scruffy bunch of hoodlums" might be elided thus:
    • Police officer Dave Generic said, "[I've never] seen such a scruffy bunch of hoodlums".

Square brackets are also used to indicate an ellipsis (...) that is not part of the original material; for example:

  • Dave Generic's wife Davina said, "Poor Dave's been so busy this week, he's been chasing gangsters from Norwich to Truro and he hasn't had a day off since January. He deserves a pay rise." might be elided to:
    • Dave Generic's wife Davina said, "Poor Dave's been so busy this week [...] he deserves a pay rise". (see WP:ELLIPSIS for details),

Square brackets are also used to identify added emphasis. For example:

  • According to Horatio in Shakespeare's Hamlet, "Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!" [emphasis added].

Unexpected errors, imperfections and styles can be marked with " [sic]" using the template {{sic}} to identify an error in the original source that has not been introduced by a Wikipedia editor. Trivial spelling or typographical errors that do not affect the intended meaning may be silently corrected. To identify emphasis in the original source, use [emphasis in the original].

Quotations should generally be worked into the article text to avoid interrupting the pace, flow and organization of the article. Longer quotations may need to be set apart using the wikitext template {{Quote}} or the HTML blockquote element. Long quotations may also be hidden in the reference or as a footnote to facilitate verification by other editors without sacrificing readability.

Recommended useEdit

In some instances, quotations are preferred to text. For example:

  • When dealing with a controversial subject. As per the WP:ATTRIBUTEPOV policy, biased statements of opinion can only be presented with attribution. Quotations are the simplest form of attribution. Editors of controversial subjects should quote the actual spoken or written words to refer to the most controversial ideas. Controversial ideas must never appear to be "from Wikipedia".
  • When using a unique phrase or term created by a given author. For example Oscar Wilde's witticism "The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable".[6]

OveruseEdit

While quotations are an indispensable part of Wikipedia, try not to overuse them. Quotations are loose, ambiguous style that is common in fiction and journalism, and is generally not suited to encyclopedic writing. Long quotations crowd the actual article and distract attention from other information. Many direct quotations can be minimized in length by providing an appropriate context in the surrounding text. A summary or paraphrase of a quotation is often better where the original wording could be improved. Consider minimizing the length of a quotation by paraphrasing, by working small portions of the quotation into the article text, or both. Provided each use of a quotation within an article is legitimate and justified, there is no need for an arbitrary limit but quotations should not dominate the article.

Overuse happens when:

  • a quotation is used without pertinence: it is presented visually on the page but its relevance is not explained anywhere;
  • quotations are used to explain a point that can be paraphrased;
  • the quotations dominate the article or section.

Specific recommendationsEdit

  • Using too many quotations is incompatible with the encyclopedic writing style.
  • Quotations shouldn't replace plain, concise text. Intersperse quotations with original prose that comments on those quotations instead of constructing articles using quotations with little or no original prose.
  • Long quotations may be hidden in the reference as a WP:FOOTNOTE to facilitate verification by other editors without sacrificing readability.
  • To avoid original research, quotations that are not directly related to the article's topic or supporting its content should not be used.
  • Quote boxes should generally be avoided as they draw attention to the opinion of one source as though Wikipedia endorses it, which may violate the neutral point of view policy.
  • Avoid stand-alone quote sections; use Wikiquote instead. The {{Wikiquote}} template can be used in Wikipedia articles to indicate there are relevant quotes at Wikiquote.
  • Be conservative when linking within quotations.

Copyrighted material and fair useEdit

When copyrighted text must be quoted, see the plagiarism and non-free content guidelines. Extensive quotation of copyrighted text is prohibited.

Although quoting involves copying another writer's work without permission, it is generally permitted under fair use rules in the United States. However, as is the case with fair-use images, fair-use quotation has limitations:

  • The copied material should not comprise a substantial portion of the work being quoted and a long quotation should not be used where a shorter quotation would express the same information. What constitutes a substantial portion depends on many factors, such as the length of the original work, and the importance and relevance of the quoted text to that work. In one extreme case, Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises, the quotation of 400 from a 500-page book were ruled to be infringement. The Court reasoned that publishing those 400 words before the book was available for sale significantly damaged the value of the entire book because the 400 words contained highly controversial breaking news. For this reason, Wikipedia should not publish quotations from books that have not yet been published.[7] Editors are advised to exercise good judgment and to remain mindful that while brief excerpts are permitted by policy, extensive quotations are forbidden.
  • The quotation must be useful and aid understanding of the subject; irrelevant quotations should be removed.
  • All quotations must be attributed to their sources.

Unlike fair-use images, quotations are permitted on talk pages and project pages where they are useful for discussion but the requirements listed above should still be observed.

A special case is the use of quotations purely for interest or decorative purposes on user pages. By consensus such quotations are acceptable as long as they are limited in extent, particularly if they comment on the attitudes of the user in question. Because the claim of fair use is weaker, the restrictions on extent must be more strictly enforced.

Fair use does not need to be invoked for public domain works or text that is available under a CC-BY-SA-compatible free license so in such cases, the extent of quotations is simply a matter of style.

See alsoEdit

Articles
Administration pages
Templates
Category

NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Oscar Wilde. "A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated". First published anonymously in the Saturday Review of 17 November 1894.
  2. ^ a b c [hypothetical newspaper article]
  3. ^ a b c d [hypothetical journal paper]
  4. ^ a b [hypothetical philosophy article]
  5. ^ [hypothetical article on the anthropology of science]
  6. ^ Oscar Wilde: the critical heritage, by Karl E. Beckson, p. 306 citing act one of A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde.
  7. ^ This case involved first publication of former President Gerald Ford's account of his decision to pardon Richard Nixon, and the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the right of first publication is a particularly strong right. See Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises for details and citations.