2

As a matter of longstanding practice, and supported by W3C's draft HTML5 specs, along with my own sense of 'the rightness of things', I place citations/attributions outside of blockquotes. Blockquotes, by my view, contain only HTML markup and quoted material. So, if I'm quoting (at length) material from another source, by convention I place the quoted material in the blockquote and the attribution/citation outside the blockquote. In Markdown, this looks like

> Lengthy quote.

(source of lengthy quote)

The relevant verbiage from W3C is

The blockquote element represents a section that is quoted from another source.
....
Attribution for the quotation, if any, must be placed outside the blockquote element.
....
Here a blockquote element is used ... to clearly relate a quote to its attribution (which is not part of the quote and therefore doesn't belong inside the blockquote itself)....

(W3C HTML5: A vocabulary and associated APIs for HTML and XHTML, Editor's Draft 22 August 2012, "4.5.4 The blockquote element". Bold emphasis mine.)

The above is an example of my style choice. In my view, placing the citation/attribution inside the blockquote (other than in a cite attribute or similar markup, as discussed below) not only looks wrong, it violates the spirit and the letter of HTML5.

The HTML5 recommendation from 2014 differs slightly from the Editor's Draft, but the recommendation is clearly geared toward (a) future browser implementations, rather than present-day implementations, and (b) a version of Markdown that implements the recommendation and is appropriately translated for rendering by common browsers. That is, the 2014 recommendation, as opposed to the draft quoted above, assumes the implementation of appropriate rendering for elements not currently implemented either by Markdown or by common browsers:

The blockquote element represents content that is quoted from another source, optionally with a citation which must be within a footer or cite element, and optionally with in-line changes such as annotations and abbreviations.

Content inside a blockquote other than citations and in-line changes must be quoted from another source, whose address, if it has one, may be cited in the cite attribute.
....
Attribution for the quotation, may be be placed inside the blockquote element, but must be within a cite element for in-text attributions or within a footer element.

(W3C HTML5: A vocabulary and associated APIs for HTML and XHTML, W3C Recommendation 28 October 2014, "4.4.4 The blockquote element". Bold emphasis mine.)

So, the question is, have I overlooked an ELU convention for blockquotes and blockquote attributions (that is, a convention that both the blockquote and its attribution should be put inside Markdown that will be translated into one blockquote element) supported by sufficient reasoning to overcome my objections (as suggested by the foregoing)?


A 'question' on Meta SE also broached this topic, so I added an 'answer' synthesizing this 'question' and the accepted 'answer'. See Allow sourcing in blockquote markdown.

  • 2
    I could not care less about " spirit and the letter of HTML5", but I agree with the OP. I think that putting the citation in the block quote would be bizarre, and it never occurred to me to do it. Nor do I remember seeing anyone else here do it. – ab2 Sep 28 '16 at 23:51
  • @ab2 I've always done it (and can justify it as in my answer below). – Andrew Leach Sep 29 '16 at 10:36
  • @Andrew Leach After seeing the example in your answer, I take back "bizarre". Your example is very neat and logical -- but the citation is too tiny. – ab2 Sep 29 '16 at 13:43
  • @ab2 Styling is easy, and it's only a representation there. – Andrew Leach Sep 29 '16 at 13:59
5

The premise of the question appears to be based on the structure of HTML rather than the legibility and ease of understanding of what is actually seen on the screen.

While there may be some benefit in adhering to HTML standards, it does require that ability to be implemented in Markdown. The Markdown which Stack Exchange uses doesn't allow <blockquote> to include a cite attribute, and it doesn't support the <cite> element. In fact, it doesn't look like the current version of Markdown's blockquote includes it.

Consequently, structuring information according to the HTML standards is impossible, although adding support for <cite> would presumably be possible, perhaps with a >? marker (as in "Where does that come from?") It could then be styled suitably. The W3C even demonstrates placing <cite> within <blockquote> [W3C <blockquote>], so it would be possible for something like the following to be rendered correctly:

> Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Duis vitae neque eu metus 
> finibus malesuada nec rhoncus libero. Duis leo lectus, gravida non rutrum at, blandit
> at metus. Vivamus et suscipit lectus. Sed porttitor dui sed orci sagittis molestie.
> Praesent semper egestas elit eget euismod. Aliquam id ante sed libero tempor sodales
> in et urna.
>? [Lorem ipsum text](http://www.lipsum.com/)

<blockquote> 
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Duis vitae neque eu metus 
finibus malesuada nec rhoncus libero. Duis leo lectus, gravida non rutrum at, blandit
at metus. Vivamus et suscipit lectus. Sed porttitor dui sed orci sagittis molestie.
Praesent semper egestas elit eget euismod. Aliquam id ante sed libero tempor sodales
in et urna.
<cite><a href="http://www.lipsum.com/>Lorem ipsum text</a></cite>
</blockquote>

With appropriate styling, that could be rendered as in this simulation:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Duis vitae neque eu metus finibus malesuada nec rhoncus libero. Duis leo lectus, gravida non rutrum at, blandit at metus. Vivamus et suscipit lectus. Sed porttitor dui sed orci sagittis molestie. Praesent semper egestas elit eget euismod. Aliquam id ante sed libero tempor sodales in et urna.

Lorem ipsum text

However, since that's not possible, a pragmatic approach to what is seen on screen is reasonable to adopt. It makes sense to indicate clearly where a quotation may be found, and to separate this reference from the commentary text which the quotation illustrates. Since separate citations are not supported, the best way of indicating that a citation is not commentary text is to include it in the quote block. By the same token, it's necessary to ensure that there is visual separation between the actual quoted text and its source reference, as in my simulation above.

It is true that screen-reading software will use the HTML code to determine how text should be classified (for example, a quote may be spoken in a different voice, or the citation may be prefixed by the spoken words "taken from"). But, I contend, even with these quirks it would be better to include the citation inside the quote in order that the citation is audibly different to the commentary text surrounding the quotation.

Bottom line: I believe the citation should be included within the blockquote.

  • I suppose it might even be worth asking on MSE for Stack Exchange's Markdown implementation to include >? for this purpose. – Andrew Leach Sep 29 '16 at 10:15
  • The cite tag is part of the markdown syntax. It must be SE that elected to strip it. – MetaEd Sep 29 '16 at 18:19
  • With reservations, I find this treatment most comprehensive. The reservations: (1) what about quotes in images? I'll do some experiments to see if I can wrap those in (a) Markdown for blockquotes; (b) blockquotes etc. (2) This reminds me why the HTML5 guidelines/standards are worth using: forward-looking browser and other device compatibility and accessibility. I have no objection (aside from laziness) to blockquotes containing attribution if that's structurally sound and the rendering/styling makes the attribution distinct from the quoted material. Did you ask on MSE about >? or shall I? – JEL Sep 30 '16 at 17:21
  • In addition, given the balkanization expressed by the responses here, do you think there's any point in making citation/attribution guidelines in MetaELU? It seems pointless in light of the expressed balkanization, but the consistency such guidelines might support has value. – JEL Sep 30 '16 at 17:23
  • 1
    I have no idea what reservation (1) is referring to, but images shouldn't be a problem. Markdown copes with them. Re >? no, I haven't. I think that shorthand would be worthwhile, and SE could unblock the <cite> tag while they're about it so there are alternative methods. Citations would need a CSS entry, too, all of which points to MSE support being needed. – Andrew Leach Sep 30 '16 at 19:07
  • I found a 'question' on MSE that broached the topic, so added a synthesis of this answer and the question. See Allow sourcing in blockquote markdown. – JEL Oct 5 '16 at 3:58
  • @JEL Ironically perhaps, your answer on that question comes perilously close to plagiarism. – Andrew Leach Oct 5 '16 at 7:07
  • Well...I'm not seeing it--the closeness to plagiarism--but you're welcome to edit anything you see fit to fix the almost-problem. Any irony resulting from attribution failure in that answer was unintentional. I should point out that for an academic, even the suggestion of plagiarism is something to be avoided like the plague. – JEL Oct 5 '16 at 23:27
7

I used to put it outside, but recently I think I've been putting it inside by analogy with typographical block quotes. (It's also more compact.) Either way seems fine to me.

I don't think official recommendations really matter much. Your own quotes seem to show that they are varied. Also, it's not like people always use other elements of markup in officially prescribed ways (<sub> and <sup> are commonly misused for footnotes, <em> is commonly misused for presentational, non-emphatic italics, <code> is commonly misused for monospaced or specially formatted text that is not computer code).

  • Yeah, the point about analogy with blockquotes in traditional printed material, wherein the attribution is set with the same left-right indents, preceded by an em- or en-dash, flush right to the blockquote indent, etc. is a good one. I don't know about the abuse of element tags...I'd rather not, but if I have to work around rendering defects, I'm just as quick to abuse them as anybody. – JEL Sep 29 '16 at 0:40
3

It is too much to expect contributors to know that the > markdown is rendered into a blockquote element, much less to understand that the standard semantics of that element anticipate that citations would only appear within it as span-level cite elements.

I do not know of a ELU convention that restricts where citations should appear. We offer some suggestions on style, but little or nothing binding. If we look to accepted style guides such as MLA, in-line citations are acceptable in block quotations. It would be unreasonable to forbid them here.

I see several ways forward for you personally.

  1. You could do as you suggest in your question, pull citations out of block quotations.

    Span-level HTML tags – e.g. <span>, <cite>, or <del> – can be used anywhere in a Markdown paragraph, list item, or header.

    (Markdown: Syntax)

  2. You could use the cite element in block quotations, anticipating that it might eventually be supported.

    Span-level HTML tags – e.g. <span>, <cite>, or <del> – can be used anywhere in a Markdown paragraph, list item, or header. (Markdown: Syntax)

  3. Instead of in-line citations, you could create notes with title text (a.k.a. hovertext or tooltips). This is what I often do.

    Span-level HTML tags – e.g. <span>, <cite>, or <del> – can be used anywhere in a Markdown paragraph, list item, or header.¹

2

I frequently put the source inside the block quote. Especially if it's just an abbreviation or the word source or link.

Perfect SWR answer VERB word is exactly used as the OP asked for [ - ODO]

Lengthy text that is cited from somewhere, like a newspaper for example. It has to go on for at least a few lines and maybe it has even paragraphs.

Paragraph two continues from the same source. [ - Source]

I think the squared brackets which include a single link make it pretty clear what's going on.

However, I would not do this if I listed the complete name of the source like in the first example of the question. I think that is better put below the block quote. The single link however fits nicely and more compactly inside the element. It seems like wasting valuable screen estate otherwise.

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