Given the nature of this site, it happens that one wants to quote something that contains a blockquote itself, e.g., as an example sentence. For example:

A run-on sentence is something like this:

I came I saw I conquered.

As you can see, the quote inside the quote is only distinguishable from its surrounding through the faint dotted line and the small indentation. Regular quotes are much easier to distinguish due to the difference of the background colour. By contrast, on most other Stack Exchanges, quotes are also marked by a vertical bar and thus double quotes can be distinguished sufficiently easily.

A makeshift alternative that some users resort to is using code blocks, but this has several disadvantages like a monospace font and no automatic line wrapping. (See this answer for examples; it does not really work here on Meta due to the desaturisation.)

I thus propose that the site design is changed to make double quotes easily recognisable as such.

  • 3
    What's wrong with using quotation marks, anything is better than code/back ticks which forces the visitor to scroll in order to read the citation.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 12, 2016 at 8:30
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA: I would not prefer it for series of examples as in the linked example. Anyway, I hope it is futile to argue about the best makeshift alternative.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 12, 2016 at 8:37

5 Answers 5


You could solve this problem fairly easily by putting your example sentence in italics.

A run-on sentence is something like this:

I came I saw I conquered.

If desired, you can also increase the indent by inserting   a few times:

A run-on sentence is something like this:

      I came I saw I conquered.

I think either of those options would be much better than your "makeshift alternative" of using backticks and putting the text into an ugly, monospaced font:

A run-on sentence is something like this:
I came I saw I conquered.

You wrote:

this has several disadvantages like a monospace font and no automatic line wrapping.

If the sentence is longer than a few words, I think “no automatic line wrapping” is a deal-breaker on a site like this one. In my mind, that example you point to is a good one to illustrate what not to do. It should probably be edited and cleaned up, not pointed to as exemplary:

O R I G I N A L snapshot of original version

IMPROVED VERSION snapshot of improved version


I'd like to suggest a change to the CSS to make nested quotes more distinguishable:

blockquote {
    border: 1px dotted rgba(151,151,151,0.43);
    background: linear-gradient(rgba(248, 237, 218, 0.5),rgba(248, 237, 218, 0.5));

Currently, the border is only specified for the top and bottom, but it's more obvious if it surrounds the quote. It helps to mark the increased indent of nested quotes.

The background is specified with a transparency, so that cumulative blockquotes accumulate the transparency and become progressively darker:

Screenshot of nested quotes

It's subtle, but it only needs to be subtle.

linear-gradient is not universally supported, but there are browser-specific versions of that directive. Even if it isn't supported, border is universal, and it can be preceded by a straight background-color directive which will be acted on if it's not superseded by the later gradient.

  • 1
    How would I use this? Can I just add this to my Stylish Chrome extension? EDIT: Wow. I just did. It's nice! P.S. I removed the color portion. The borders are enough for me.
    – NVZ Mod
    Sep 16, 2017 at 20:37
  • P.S. I'm also using other stuff, which looks cool, on my PC. meta.stackexchange.com/q/300905/309993
    – NVZ Mod
    Sep 17, 2017 at 18:15

I agree. I was just editing a question like this, and while I think the current embedded block quotes look better than code blocks, they are very subtle and could benefit from being made more obvious.

Italicization only works for example sentences. It can't always be used (for example, it looks bad in extended quote blocks), so it is not a general solution.

I think the indentation for block quotes embedded in other block quotes should be made larger, so that the quoted text is more clearly set of from the rest. The current indentation is minuscule, and the only other marker is the light dotted lines.


I'll borrow J.R.'s examples.

Original: snapshot of original version

J.R.'s Improved version (currently possible): snapshot of J.R.'s improved version

What I think would be the best version:

snapshot of my improved version


The design changes for enabling responsive design included unifying the formatting on quotes network-wide, which solved this issue.


Yet another option is to use superscript (sup and /sup) tags for the internal quotations, which produces text that looks like this:

Subject area and disciplines

Subject areas like biology, sociology, engineering, women's studies and psychology are common nouns and don't normally take a capital letter.

The University of Ottawa has programs in an array of disciplines, from mathematics and medicine to chemistry and criminology.

The same applies to broader areas:

Professor Doesitall has published extensively in the humanities, pure and applied sciences and arts.

This approach has the advantage of enabling you to retain italics that may have appeared in the original quotation as distinct italics—although admittedly you could use roman (reverse italics) to serve the same purpose if you adopted J.R.'s all-italic default formatting for internal quotations.

The difference in type size, working in combination with the (regrettably skimpy) extra indentation, makes the internal quotations very easy to recognize. I have used this approach several times in answers of mine that contain embedded quotes within a quotation block.

  • Oh... It is a possibility, but that's really an abuse of the formatting and not how you're supped to use sup and sub tags. Unfortunately, Stack Exchange does not offer small text sizing, so people do use this as a work-around.
    – herisson
    Mar 12, 2016 at 22:00
  • 4
    Please have mercy on those of us who are not eagle-eyed.
    – ab2
    Mar 13, 2016 at 0:57

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