Definitions

direct quotation

Block quotation

A block quotation, also known as a long quotation, block quote or extract, is a quotation in a written document, set off from the main text as a distinct paragraph or block. It is typically used for a longer passage than a run-in quotation, which is set off with quotation marks. A block quotation is often distinguished visually using indentation, setting in a different typeface, or in a smaller size.

Origins

In the first centuries of typesetting, quotations were distinguished merely by indicating the speaker, and this can still be seen in some editions of the bible. During the Renaissance, quotations were distinguished by setting in a typeface contrasting with the main body text (often Italic type with roman, or the other way round). Block quotations were set this way at full size and full measure.

Quotation marks were first cut in type during the middle of the sixteenth century, and were used copiously by some printers by the seventeenth. In Baroque and Romantic-period books, they could be repeated at the beginning of every line of a long quotation. When this practice was abandoned, the empty margin remained, leaving an indented block quotation.

Formatting block quotations

There is no hard-and-fast rule for exact formatting of a block quotation. To a large extent the specific format may be dictated by the method of publication (e.g. handwritten text, typewritten pages, or electronic publishing) as well as the typeface being used.

For writers and editors, the Chicago Manual of Style recommends using a block quotation when cited text is four or more lines in length, and setting it smaller than the surrounding text. The block quotation may also be used to distinguish shorter citations from original text, though strictly speaking this does not follow APA or MLA style guidelines. Use of the block quotation for shorter passages is a stylistic choice that may or may not be acceptable depending on the situation.

Some guidelines suggest an indentation of five, ten, or fifteen spaces. However, five spaces in a proportional font may be much narrower than in a typewriter font of the same point size. In addition, setting an indent based on an exact number of spaces may not be technically possible in a given word processing or electronic publishing application. In these situations, a measurement of distance rather than a number of spaces may be prescribed instead (for example, a 0.5–1" indent). Some writers indent block quotations from the right margin as well. Block quotations are generally set off from the text that precedes and follows them by also adding extra space above and below the quotation and setting the text in smaller type. Barring specific requirements, the format of the block quotation will ultimately be determined by aesthetics, making the quotation pleasing to the eye, easy to read, and appropriate for the particular writing task.

In typesetting, block quotations can be distinguished from the surrounding text by variation in typeface (often italic vs. roman), type size, or by indentation. Often combinations of these methods are used, but are not necessary. Block quotations are also visually distinguished from preceding and following main text blocks by a white line or half-line space.

Introductory punctuation, capitalization, and indentation

Block quotations are usually preceded by a sentence ending with a colon or a period, and they usually begin with a capitalized first word.

Fielding hides his own opinions on the matter deep in Tom Jones:
Now, in reality, the world have paid too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them men of much greater profundity than they really are. From this complaisance the critics have been emboldened to assume a dictatorial power, and have so far succeeded that they are now become the masters, and have the assurance to give laws to those authors from whose predecessors they originally received them.

If the quoted passage continues an obviously incomplete (unquoted) sentence that precedes it, a comma may be used instead, or no punctuation at all, depending on the sentence's syntax, and the following extract will usually begin with a lowercase letter.

According to Fielding,
the critics have been emboldened to assume a dictatorial power, and have so far succeeded that they are now become the masters, and have the assurance to give laws to those authors from whose predecessors they originally received them.

When the beginning of a block quotation is also the beginning of a paragraph in the original, the first line of the quotation is normally indented like a paragraph, and any subsequent paragraph openings in an extract are similarly indented.

When using a quote, the quote must be cited to avoid plagiarism. In block quotation, the citation is placed in parentheses after the quote and still in the block section. There is no period after the citation, unlike direct quotation.

Expanding on his theme, his tone veers toward the contemptuous:
The critic, rightly considered, is no more than the clerk, whose office it is to transcribe the rules and laws laid down by those great judges whose vast strength of genius hath placed them in the light of legislators, in the several sciences over which they presided. This office was all which the critics of old aspired to; nor did they ever dare to advance a sentence without supporting it by the authority of the judge from whence it was borrowed.
But in process of time, and in ages of ignorance, the clerk began to invade the power and assume the dignity of his master. The laws of writing were no longer founded on the practice of the author, but on the dictates of the critic. The clerk became the legislator, and those very peremptorily gave laws whose business it was, at first, only to transcribe them.

Quotations within an extract

If a block quotation itself contains quoted material, double quotation marks enclose that material. (In a run-in quotation, these would be set as single quotation marks.)

Davenport reports what may have been the last words Pound ever spoke in public:
“Tempus loquendi,” the frail voice said with its typical rising quaver, “tempus tacendi,” quoting Ecclesiastes, Malatesta, and Thomas Jefferson simultaneously, and explaining, in this way, that he had said quite enough.

Dialogue in a block quotation is enclosed in quotation marks, and the beginning of each speech is marked by paragraph indention, just as in the original.

Next O'Connor’s hapless protagonist is collared and grilled by the retired schoolteacher in the second-floor apartment:
“He was a Spaniard,” Mr. Jerger said. “Do you know what he was looking for?”
“Florida,” Ruby said.
“Ponce de Leon was looking for the fountain of youth,” Mr. Jerger said, closing his eyes.
“Oh,” Ruby muttered.

If a speech runs to more than one paragraph, open quotation marks appear at the beginning of each paragraph of the extract; closing quotation marks appear only at the end of the final paragraph.

For dialogue from a play or meeting minutes, the speakers' names are set on a small indention, in italics or small capitals, followed by a period or colon. Runover lines generally indent about an em space further.

This vein of rustic drollery resurfaces in the scene where the transformed Bottom meets the fairies (act 2, scene 1):
Bottom.I cry your worship's mercy, heartily: I beseech your worship's name.
Cobweb.Cobweb.
Bottom.I shall desire you of more acquaintance, good Master Cobweb: if
I cut my finger, I shall make bold with you. Your name, honest gentleman?
Peaseblossom.Peaseblossom.
Bottom.I pray you, commend me to Mistress Squash, your mother, and
to Master Peascod, your father.

Sen. Baucus:Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The Presiding Officer:The clerk will call the roll
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Sen. Warner:Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the
quorum call be rescinded.
The Presiding Officer:Without objection, it is so ordered.

Comparing with run-in quotations

The examples given above are block quotations. The following sentence contains a run-in quotation:

Wikipedia defines Hanlon's Razor as follows: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."

Notes

References

External links

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