Quoting rules

In a locked thread, we were reminded about the rule about altering quotes, as follows:

[bolding added]

There seems to be a sense among the mods that it technically violates the bolded portion if I quote part of a person’s post without using “snip” or “…”

I disagree, for three reasons.

  1. The rule uses the word “may,” not “must.” If “must” is intended, this should change. But it shouldn’t, for the next two reasons.
  2. Normal editorial rules don’t require a reporter (for example) to indicate that a quote in an article is only a portion of the interview. That would be ridiculous. It’s understood that the reporter conducts a full interview and then excerpts only the quotes from the interview that fit in the story. Normal editorial rules suggest you use ellipses to indicate that portions of a quote within the quote are removed.

So if someone tells me, “I go for penguins. O lord, I go for penguins. Penguins are so sensitive, penguins are so sensitive, penguins are so sensitive to my needs!” I may quote them as follows:

and I don’t need ellipses. But I would need them in this quote:

Requiring ellipses in the first quote is not standard editorial practice in any publication I’ve ever read.


  1. This is not necessary to fix any problem. On the rare occasions where someone quotes out of context to deliberately distort another poster, that can be addressed there, without referring to a technicality.

So: the rule doesn’t support this interpretation, it’s not standard practice, and it’s a solution in search of a problem.

Puzzlegal suggested that (and watch my lack of ellipses here, despite quoting a portion of her full post)

I encourage the mods to come down on the side of leaving things be. This is not a change in modding that we need.

Agreed completely.
Although until they clarify, I’m going to err on the side of caution.

And also, arguments about “context” are silly when we have the highlight-quote and lovely caron-expand functionality now.
“Caron? What’s a caron?”
I’m glad you asked, Imaginary Stranger. I Mean This Symbol :


Click on it at the top of a quote box and you get the whole quoted post.

I’ve always used ellipses to indicate omissions in the middle of something I’ve quoted, but I’ve never thought they were necessary if I quoted one or more complete sentences from a longer post, where I haven’t omitted anything from within the portion I quoted.

Is this the correct understanding of “omitted portions of a quote”?

My understanding and style, both on the board and off, is the same as Thudlow’s. If there is a hole or gap in the continuity, the quoter should specify that content is missing.

I think the OP is misinterpeting what the mods mean by " omitted portions of a quote. Omitted refers to interior omissions, not the pieces before and after a complete section.

Therefore the rule does support that interpretation, which is absolutely standard in the style guides I’m familiar with. Is there a problem here on the board? I haven’t seen one, but this perfectly clarifies what posters are supposed to do, always a good thing.

see this thread.

That’s my understanding of it, and the way that I have always enforced the rule.

There is a point to be made that you can’t snip such a small section of text that you functionally change the meaning of what was quoted. In that case, adding ellipses or [snip] or some other indication may help, but in most cases you are better off quoting more of the text so that the meaning is not changed.

Sure, if one do that, it would be bad, and there no doubt have been incidents like that here before but
a) That was not the case with what Banquet_Bear did in the post in question. That sentence stood by itself in the larger quote, nothing in the paragraph preceding it changes its own meaning. If the poster, or some third party, subsequently found that it being teased out like that was embarrassing to them, that’s irrelevant, the plain meaning was there all the same.

b) Every properly-formatted quote now is expandable to a full quote, so “such a small section” is fuzzy - technically every post with a quote does contain “more of the text”, in fact it contains all of the text. Quoting a part is more like highlighting for emphasis, with that function.

I don’t think that how we should quote is even the right question regarding the former mod note, which I’m glad to see was rescinded. The question is whether the quote substantially changed the poster’s meaning.

I don’t think it did. The quote was accurate, it effectively summed up the poster’s overall point, and it was the part that the reply was directed at. In all, it was a fair quote.

So rewriting the rules that have worked pretty well for a long time is pointless. If we’re going to start quibbling over every ellipsis, people will just stop using the quote feature. Was the quote accurate? Was it quoted in good faith? That’s all we need concern ourselves with.

Yeah, in that linked thread, there was an implication that failure to use ellipses was technically a violation of the rules. I wanted to clarify whether that was the case, and if I was reading the implication right, plead that it not be.

As long as we’re defining words, I define a problem as widespread. An instance may cause an uproar but it’s not yet a problem.

There are a few lines from the other thread that concerned me, including:

As far as I can tell, it doesn’t violate the letter of the rule, there’s no long-standing rule that’s implicated here, and there shouldn’t be a need for a discussion about how to resolve any conflict between the letter and spirit of the rules.

Thanks, mods will discuss.

If you’re wondering about the context of a quote:

If you double-click on the username (puzzlegal) in the quote, it shows the whole quote with the quoted part highlighted.

Sounds good, thank y’all! I think this is a little logistical issue, so I’m not fussed (although I’m sure it seems super pedantic of me), but I just wanted to say my piece. And now I have, and y’all are awesome.

I agree that providing a misleading quotation of someone by omitting a portion of their words is problematic and worthy of moderation. But it’s the deliberate misleading that’s the problem, not the cutting of the quote. And adding ellipses or a “snip” or something along those lines does little to counteract the misleading nature of the quotation.

If someone said, “I like pedophiles to be identified and isolated from gatherings of young people.” And someone then quoted them saying, “I like pedophiles”, with a misleading explanation, that’s a problem. If you add “…” it’s still misleading.

You could even achieve this without snipping. A post in its entirety could be misleading without context. If there was a thread about an NCAA football championship and one of the teams had a dog mascot, someone might post “I want the dogs beaten thoroughly, I can’t stand them.” If that entire post was quoted in a thread about animal abuse without context it would really put someone in a bad light.

My point is that it should be easy enough to say that you shouldn’t deliberately misrepresent another poster by quoting them without proper context. You don’t need to add technical qualifiers about exactly how that quoting is done, what matters is the effect of what you’re doing. Adding such qualifiers gives people wiggle room to abuse quotations while staying technically within the rules, and might lead to others being moderated needlessly when they aren’t being misleading.

I encountered this same bizarre misunderstanding of the rule here:

The poster quoted the portion of the post they were replying to. That is fine. It has always been fine. The meaning was not “radically changed”. Moderators should know better. While a mod’s new and unique misunderstanding of the rule is fixable, an understanding of English writing that brings one to write the following may not be:

What you did is extremely misleading and putting a different meaning to what another poster said.

If you don’t think pulling that one sentence out of that long post change the context, there is nothing left to be said. To me it was very blatant.

I will go on record to say I did not agree, but did agree that if they felt I should rescind it, I would.

This is an excellent point, thank you.

Apologies for the slight topic drift. I would like to offer the perspective of someone who has this board at heart, despite having joined only relatively recently. Not on the specific issue, but more generally on the rules of the board and the discussions about them.

It is admirable that mods and posters have such open confrontation on the rules, and it reassuring to see that the rules are alive, questionable and open to amendment.

But reading the closed post referenced in the OP, if I didn’t know better, I would think that one needs to be a lawyer before venturing to write something here.

I think that I wrote it before, and I am sure that I was not the first one, but this community might benefit from a drastic, aggressive simplification of the rules. A few points about respecting others and their ideas, applying common sense, not being a jerk, something that a new poster could read and digest in a reasonable amount of time.

I understand that the fine grained rules have the purpose of creating a clearer, possibly more objective framework for the mods. On the other hand, controversial acts of moderation are probably seldom about the letter of the rule, and rather about a subjective judgement call or interpretation of some rule made by a mod. The fewer the rules, the more the discussion would focus on the problematic behavior, rather on the fine detail of the more or less obscure rule that was violated.

As in the very case under debate here, in the end the culprit is the perceived intention of the poster, which can hardly be codified objectively.

I think that the quoting system of discourse makes the rules, that were necessary with vbullitin, obsolete.

Keep the rule that there can be no alteration of text in the quote box (if you must) but don’t make partial quotes more work just to keep a rule for its own sake. Quotes in discourse always have a direct link to the complete original. People will only make a fool of themselves if they really start messing with the meaning.

Yes, I agree. If you use the Discourse quote system, there should generally not be a issue. Mind you, one can still snip and change meaning:

“That GOP politician said Hitler was right”