Wikipedia:Quotations

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For the Manual of Style on quotes, see WP:MOSQUOTE.

Quotations are a fundamental attribute of Wikipedia. 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 such use in Wikipedia articles.

Comparison with paraphrases[edit]

Quotations vs. paraphrases
Quotations Paraphrases
Definitions Verbatim text, set off by quotation marks or other formatting elements (such as block-indenting) Text based on a source, but rephrased in Wikipedia editors' own words
Attribution Both quotations and paraphrases must be attributed to their sources
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 set off from the running text

Example[edit]

Quotation
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]
Paraphrase
This attitude to art and life was expressed by Oscar Wilde, who stated that a truth loses its intellectual value by the time it turns into a fact.[1]

General guidelines[edit]

Quotations are a good tool to comply with the no original research policy but 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 quotes is found in WP:MOSQUOTE and WP:CITE. Attribution should be provided in the text of the article, not exclusively in a footnote or citation. A reader should not have to follow a footnote to learn whose words a quote is. Any quotation that is not sourced may be removed at any time, however, a good faith search in an effort to find a source before removing a quote is appreciated (see WP:UNSOURCED and WP:PRESERVE).

Where the same quotation has been used elsewhere in the article, avoid duplicating it, which is regarded as poor style.

The quotation should be representative of the whole source document; editors should be very careful to avoid misrepresentation of the argument in the source.

Where a quotation presents rhetorical language in place of more neutral, dispassionate tone preferred for encyclopedias, it can be a backdoor method of inserting a non-neutral treatment of a controversial subject into Wikipedia's narrative on the subject, and should be avoided.

For free or public domain material do not use quote marks but the text must be attributed and given a footnote, or given a link to the original text. For copyrighted material, see below.

Formatting[edit]

Do not put quotations in italics unless the 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 indicated as being quotations. For information regarding the use of punctuation with quotations, including the use of quotation marks within quotations, see the Manual of Style: "Quotations".

If not used verbatim, any alterations must be clearly marked, i.e. [square brackets] for added or replacement text, an ellipsis (...) for removed text (see WP:ELLIPSIS for details), and emphasis noted after the quotation as "[emphasis added]" or "[emphasis in the original]". Exceptions are trivial spelling or typographical errors that obviously do not affect the intended meaning; these may be silently corrected or may be retained and marked with " [sic]"—using the template {{sic}}—to indicate that the error is in the original source.

Quotations should generally be worked into the article text, so as not to inhibit the pace, flow and organization of the article. Longer quotes may need to be set apart, generally through the use of wikitext templates such as {{Quote}}, {{Quotation}}, or the HTML blockquote element. Longer quotations may also be hidden in the reference (footnote) to facilitate verification by other editors without sacrificing readability. For pull quotes (quotes of the article text used to highlight a section) the {{Cquote}} template can be used.

Recommended use of quotations[edit]

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 subject 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".[2]

Overusing quotations[edit]

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Main page: Non-free content

While quotations are an indispensable part of Wikipedia, try not to overuse them. Long quotations crowd the actual article and remove 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 smaller portions of 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 quotes should not dominate the article.

Overuse happens when:

  • a quotation is visually on the page, but its relevance is not explained anywhere:

a quotation is used without pertinence

  • Quotes are used to explain a point that can also be paraphrased. The quotes dominate the article:

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.[3]

So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.[4]

It has been our experience that American houses insist on very comprehensive editing; that English houses as a rule require little or none and are inclined to go along with the author's script almost without query. The Canadian practice is just what you would expect--a middle-of-the-road course. We think the Americans edit too heavily and interfere with the author's rights. We think that the English publishers don't take enough editorial responsibility. Naturally, then, we consider our editing to be just about perfect. There's no doubt about it, we Canadians are a superior breed![5]

Specific recommendations[edit]

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  • Using too many quotes is incompatible with the encyclopedic writing style.
  • Quotes shouldn't replace plain, conscise text. Intersperse quotations with original prose that comments on those quotations instead of constructing articles out of quotations with little or no original prose.
  • Longer quotations may be hidden in the reference as a WP:FOOTNOTE to facilitate verification by other editors without sacrificing readability. Verification is necessary when a topic is controversial.
  • Wikipedia is not a list or repository of loosely associated topics such as quotations.
  • A quotation that does not directly relate to the topic of the article or directly support the information as it is presented should not be used, to avoid original research.
  • Quotations that can't be justified for use in an article directly may be placed in Wikiquote and a Wikiquote template put on the article to inform readers that there are relevant quotations regarding the subject.
  • As a matter of style, quoteboxes should generally be avoided as they draw special attention to the opinion of one source, and present that opinion as though Wikipedia endorses it. Instead of using quoteboxes to highlight its notability, explain its importance before introducing the quote or in an introduction to the quote.
  • Do not insert any number of quotations in a stand-alone quote section.

Examples in which encyclopedias may list many quotes[edit]

  • Articles or sections about a short fair-use sacred idea, such as the golden rule, typically both discuss and quote it. If different expressions of it are held sacred in different traditions, this may involve a list of quotes to avoid giving any one WP:UNDUE weight.
  • Articles or sections about a short widely used mathematical equation, such as the Lorentz equation, typically both discuss and quote it. If multiple expressions of it are widely used (e.g. in different notation), this may involve a list of quotes.
  • Articles or sections about a kind of sentence, such as conjunction (grammar), typically both discuss it and quote an example. If typical examples vary significantly, this may involve a list of quotes.

Copyrighted material and fair use[edit]

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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 of another's work without permission, it is generally considered one of the uses permitted under fair use in the United States. However, just as 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 longer 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 how central the quoted text is to that work. In one extreme case, Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises, 400 quoted words from a 500-page book were ruled to be infringement.[6] Editors are advised to exercise good judgment and to remain mindful of the fact 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 source.

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; but 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 available under a CC-By-SA-compatible free license, so in such cases the extent of quotations is simply a matter of style.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Oscar Wilde. "A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated". First published anonymously in the Saturday Review of 17 November 1894.
  2. ^ Oscar Wilde: the critical heritage, by Karl E. Beckson, p. 306 citing act one of A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde.
  3. ^ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
  4. ^ Dr. Seuss
  5. ^ Jack McClelland, Imagining Canadian Literature: The Selected Letters, in a letter to author Margaret Laurence, dated May, 1960
  6. ^ 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.