block quotationsDon’t go on and on

For­mat­ting block quo­ta­tions isn’t hard. Re­duce the point size and line spac­ing slightly. In­dent the text block be­tween half an inch and a full inch on the left side, and op­tion­ally the same on the right. As with first-line in­dents, make the side in­dents large enough to be no­ticed, but not so large that the line length is too short. Don’t put quo­ta­tion marks at the ends. They’re redundant.

Block quo­ta­tions are some­times un­avoid­able. If a dis­pute in­volves the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of an agree­ment, ac­cu­racy may de­mand ex­ten­sive quoting.

But as a means of tex­tual em­pha­sis, block quo­ta­tions some­times be­come, like all caps, a form of self-de­feat­ing ty­pog­ra­phy. Lawyers of­ten dump text into a block quo­ta­tion be­cause they want to sig­nal “This source is really im­por­tant, so I’ve quoted a lot of it!”

In­stead, the ac­tual sig­nal a reader of­ten gets is “Here’s some­thing long and dull from an­other case whose mean­ing and rel­e­vance you’ll have to fig­ure out for your­self be­cause I can’t be both­ered to sum­ma­rize it!”

The reader’s next thought is usu­ally “Great—I can skip this.” So if you want read­ers to pay at­ten­tion to quoted ma­te­r­ial, edit it care­fully and in­te­grate it into the text. Don’t just shovel it into a block quotation.

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