From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A quotation from Thoreau

Quotations is a loose, ambiguous style common in fiction and journalism and is generally not suited to encyclopedic writing. 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 paraphrases[edit]

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 examples[edit]

  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 examples[edit]

"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 guidelines[edit]

Quotations are a good way 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 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. A reader should not have to follow a footnote to learn who authored the quote. 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 as an act of good faith (see WP:UNSOURCED and WP:PRESERVE). If the quote is not controversial or a violation of WP:BLP, try using a "citation needed" ({{cn}}) tag for a few days. If no one provides a citation, and you can't find it either, then feel free to delete the quote.

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 the 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; be very careful. We encourage the inclusion and use of all reliable sources, including biased ones, but biased and POV content must be reliably sourced, and POV language must be quoted and attributed, rather than in Wikipedia's voice. NPOV requires that editors do not slant content in a different direction than the original source, neither by censorship, omission, neutralization/neutering, nor by overemphasis.

For free or public domain material, usage of quote marks is not required by copyrights, but to avoid plagiarism; that is still wrong. Explicit quotes must be used to provide clear attribution of wording to the original author(s). At a minimum the text must be attributed and given a footnote, or given a link to the original text. For copyrighted material, see below. For free or public domain material, longer quotes may often be used than would be allowed under "fair use" of copyrighted material.


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.[6] 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),
  • emphasis noted after the quotation as "[emphasis added]".[6]

Unexpected errors, imperfections and styles can be marked with " [sic]"[6]—using the template {{sic}}—or "[emphasis in the original]", to indicate that the error is in the original source. Exceptions are trivial spelling or typographical errors that obviously do not affect the intended meaning; these may be silently corrected.[6]

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}} or the HTML blockquote element. Longer quotations may also be hidden in the reference (footnote) to facilitate verification by other editors without sacrificing readability.

Recommended use[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 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".[7]


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

Specific recommendations[edit]

  • Using too many quotes is incompatible with the encyclopedic writing style.
  • Quotes shouldn't replace plain, concise 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.
  • Quotations not directly related to the topic of the article or supporting its content should not be used, to avoid original research.
  • Quote boxes should generally be avoided as they draw special attention to the opinion of one source, as though Wikipedia endorses it, and this 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 signal that there are relevant quotes at Wikiquote.
  • Be conservative when linking within quotations.

Copyrighted material and fair use[edit]

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. 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 appeared.[8] 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]

Administration pages


  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. ^ a b c d Lesina, Roberto; Merlo, Federico Boggio. "13.3". Il manuale di stile: guida alla redazione di documenti, relazioni, articoli, manuali, tesi di Laurea (PDF). Zanichelli. ISBN 9788808096029.
  7. ^ Oscar Wilde: the critical heritage, by Karl E. Beckson, p. 306 citing act one of A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde.
  8. ^ 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.