How do I quote correctly in Usenet? - Quoting and Answering

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2. Quoting and Answering

2.1 How much should I quote?

It is not necessary to quote the entire text of the person you respond to. A quoting should always and first of all clarify the context, enabling the reader to understand the flow of the thread. A quoting is not ment to re-post the previous article.

In general, it is completely sufficient to only leave that part of the message to which one refers. People reading the thread either know the context of the discussion or are able to find the context by using the References to read the entire thread. In order to fully understand the message it is quite often necessary to read the previous articles anyway, since one message leads to another and sometimes can only be understood when read in context.

By quoting only the necessary parts, the reading-flow is simplified a lot, especially with respect to long articles. Big quotations often make it more difficult to find the actual new text. It is not uncommon that people do not even read the entire article - who wants to read the entire text *again* in search of something new?

On the other hand, the quotation should not be so short that it is unclear to what the author is referring to, or so that it may even appear in a totally different light.

2.2 What should not be quoted?

Text to which you are not responding should be deleted. This way you make it easier for others to read your response without having to reread old text. Also, you save tons of bandwidth on thousands of servers.

In general, signatures have nothing to do with the context of the article, and usually you are not going to refer to the poster's signature. Therefore, signatures should always be deleted. A good newsreader offers the possibility to do this automatically - of course only provided the signature was separated from the text with the correct delimiter (two dashes and a space on a single line).

2.3 Why should I place my response below the quoted text?

Usually, the reading-flow is from left to right and from top to bottom, and people expect a chronological sequence similar to this. Especially people who are reading a lot of articles (and who therefore would qualify as the ideal person to answer your question) appreciate it if they can read at first the text to which you are referring. The quoted text is some kind of help to remember the topic, which of course will not work, if you place the quoted text below your response.

Furthermore, that's the standard. This may sound as a weak argument, but since people are not used to reading the other way around, they have no idea what you are referring to and have to go back and forth between the referenced articles, have to jump between different articles and so on. In short - reading the article becomes more and more difficult - for people who read many articles it is reason enough to skip the entire article, if the context is not obvious.

And besides: doesn't it look stupid to first get the answer and then see the question? (Aside from Jeopardy, of course.)

Furthermore, you (yes: You) save a lot of time using this way of quoting: You do not need to repeat what the person you refer to wrote, in order to show the context. You just place your comment after the text you wish to comment upon, and everybody immediately knows what you refer to. Also, you realize which text you are *not* responding to and can delete these parts.

So: using this technique you save time, your readers don't have to waste time, you save bandwidth and disk-space. Isn't it great what you can achieve by such simple means?

2.4 But my newsreader places the cursor above the quoted text.

Yes, of course. The cursor is placed at the beginning so you can edit the text from top to bottom and delete the parts you are not referring to. And of course it is easier for you to place your response where it belongs - the newsreader has no way of knowing this.

2.5 Why should I not attach the entire original article in the end?

Most people read an article from top to bottom (don't you?). Quite frequently, the end of an article does not fit into the screen or the window. If you attach the entire original article at the end, many people have no way of knowing whether or not you wrote something underneath. So they have to scroll down all the way to the end of the article, just to find that there is nothing of interest. This is very tiring, especially for people who are are reading lots of newsgroups each day. Just think: even reading briefly through the article takes quite some time, and not only one, but all articles count.

Furthermore, attaching the entire original article at the end goes against the idea that you should quote only what you are referring to. Also, it is unnecessary to post one and the same article again and again and again (in every response to your response and so on). Bandwidth and disk-space issues are bound to occur in no time.

2.6 A blank row between the quoted text and my response? Why?

Adding a blank line between the quoted and your text helps to differentiate between the two. Nobody likes to look for the answer in some text they already know. Not every newsreader or every terminal is able to display quoted text in a different font or color, or even if these possibilities exist, it is easier on the eyes if there is some blank space between the two.

2.7 How do I mark text I left out?

Text you left out when quoting should always be marked with "[...]" or "(...)", while the first is much more common. Another possibility that has become more and more common is to use "<snip>".

Many people tend to simply cut out the lines to which they are not referring to without marking this change. This is usually not ment to be impolite, but rather to save the author some time. Everybody can get the entire original text by following the referenced articles.

But if you leave out parts of a sentence, you definitely should mark this as described above.

2.8 May I reformat the quoted text?

Yes. But be warned - there are some people who consider the reformatting of quoted text as impolite. As long as the text is only re*formatted* and the content of the the text is not changed, these provocation should not be paid any attention. After all, you can always view the original formatting by following the referenced articles. In books or magazines you wouldn't quote the format 1:1 either.

It is however important to pay attention to keep the quotation-mark on the left side when reformatting the original text.

2.9 What about correcting spelling errors?

In general: Don't. Even if you have good intentions, many people feel insulted when you "correct" their text. Sometimes the misspelling may even have been intentional, for example if somebody spells "broken" as "borken".

And, to be precise, this behavior would not qualify as "quoting" anymore.

2.10 What's up with those "broken" special character?

Some newsreader are not able to display special characters such as umlauts (ä, ö, ü) or quoted-printable encoded characters (for example =E4). Sometimes an article does even contain "broken" characters (for example "v" for "ö", or "á" for "ß"). In these cases, however, one *should* replace the "broken" special characters with the correct ones - the readers will be thankful.

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