How do I quote correctly in Usenet? - Quotationmarks

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3. Quotationmarks

3.1 Which character should I use to mark the quoted text?

Use the "Greater-Than" character (">"). This character is recognized as a quotationmark by almost every newsreader and is mentioned in the netiquette as such for technical reasons (Son-Of-RFC 1036 and successors).

3.2 Should I insert a space after the quotationmark?

Different people have different opinions on this topic. Some people think that it is more aesthetically pleasing to have a space after each quotationmark. Other people argue that this way each level of quotation adds two characters and this way postings can more easily get over the 80 characters per line. On the other hand it is only seldom necessary to quote more than two or three people before responding.

Other people like it better if the quoted text starts right after the quotation-mark. But some people don't like this for aesthetic reasons - it is harder to read, they argue. Another disadvantage of this technique is that the keyword-search provided by most newsreaders is unable to differentiate between a word and a word with a quotationmark.

A compromise can be made by simply adding a space only after the last quotationmark, not adding any between two following quotationmarks. The disadvantage of this technique is considered to be that the quotationmark when quoting such an article is indented a little bit, thus disabling a consequent left border.

In the end, it's up to you which solution you prefer - all the three possibilities described here are common on Usenet and all have their own people who willingly defend their technique vehemently.

3.3 Doesn't it make more sense to use initials as quotationmarks?

No - and for the following reasons:

  • Space. Obviously it does not matter very much when quoting only on lower levels, but it happens every now and then that four, five, six or even seven levels of quotation take place (if you don't believe this, you should take a look into However, usually people don't have the additional space to the right to allow for 80 characters per line after the quotation mark. Defenders of the initials usually argue that the correct usage of the initials does not allow for nested quotations. All quotations should be on one level. The arguments against this are as follows: On the one hand, it becomes almost impossible to understand who wrote what in which order without having to read the previous posts. On the other hand, the non-nested quotations is broken if only one person in between does not use this style - and the newsreaders NOT doing this are in the majority.
  • Because it doesn't make sense on Usenet. Who, mind you, is "P", or maybe "DN" supposed to be? What do you think how many hundreds of thousands of people on Usenet might also be "DN"? It may make sense to use this style with mailboxes, since the same combination might not occur as frequently in this environment.
  • Because it is standard to use ">". This may be a weak argument, however, it may be difficult to get used to another display. Especially if ">" and "DN" are mixed with each other, it becomes more and more difficult to understand the different relations. If you are not used to it, it takes longer to read, since you always trip over unused quoting-styles - people who read a lot of news would not read the entire article.
  • Because it may interrupt the automatic line-wrapping of some newsreaders. Some newsreaders provide the functionality to wrap long lines automatically, so it does not exceed the recommend number of characters per line. When doing this, the newsreader usually tries to determine where a quoting begins by paying attention to the quotationmark (">"). Initials instead of ">" not only make it more difficult to differentiate between the different levels of quoting, but they may even be "normal" text.
  • Many newsreaders are able to highlight quoted text in some fashion, for example by using another font or another color. An unambiguous quotationmark is very important. Quite frequently, the newsreader assumes that a certain standardized character (such as ">", ":", "!", ">" "#" etc) marks a quotation. Furthermore, newsreaders assume that a line starting with a word-character is considered to be normal text and therefore will not highlight lines starting with the initials.
  • Finally, it is a question of the way the newsreader presents the text to the *reader*. If the reader likes the initials, in some newsreaders there is the functionality to make it show these instead of the ">".

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