Most people who quote someone's words in a document understand the need to use quotation marks around the text (lest you be accused of plagiarizing!). But a more confusing situation occurs when you are quoting someone at length. Last week I received the following question via email:
"If quoting someone's feedback that is more than one paragraph long, what is the correct formatting for quotes? Right now we have open and close quotes around every paragraph, but is that correct?"
I have two possible answers for this issue, and one of them does not involve using quotation marks at all!
- If you are going to use quotation marks at all (see answer 2 for why you might not), the first paragraph should have opening quotes, but no closing quotes. Then the next paragraph also starts with opening quotes, to kind of remind the reader that you are still quoting the same person. Then you use one closing quote at the complete end of that person's last paragraph, to show you've stopped quoting them.
- For quotes that are more than one paragraph long, there is a tradition of giving a different format to the text instead of using quotes. So it might be indented on the left, indented on both sides, smaller type, or a different color. If you use any of these methods to indicate you are extensively quoting someone, then you do not use any quotation marks.
I hope this helps clear up this issue. If you have formatting, punctuation, or grammar questions, don't forget that you cansend me your question and I may include it in a future column.
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