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Quotes, when and how to use them


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Ok you all know about " " or ' '. You may use them often. But are you using them right?


First let us look at the different forms of using Quotes:

  • Quoting a person's comments - "LSW is the greatest web designer of all time". You agenerally write this with an accreditation. Stef said "LSW is the greatest web designer of all time". Now we know how Stef feels *grin*.
  • Sarcasm or highlighting - Now let us move the quotes, LSW is the "greatest" web designer of all time. Now one can say that you are saying I am the greatest, but highlighting the Greatest to suggest that you do not feel this way or using sarcasm. Stef said "LSW is the 'greatest' web designer of all time", now you can easily see Sref?s look of contempt as he says it.
  • Or it can in other sentences mean that the word is special. Stef said "LSW is the greatest 'accessible' web designer of all time", in this case it is not sarcasm, here you can say Stef thinks I am not the best designer of all time, but I am the best accessibility designer of all time. Also highlighting in a form of separating text from the surroundings.


But that is the easy part. now let us look at the web specifically.


Miss use

One of the most misused tags on the net is

. Time and time again I see it used by people instead of paragraphs because they like the default style of blockquotes. But Blockquote has a meaning and you are confusing people possibly when you misuse it for formatting, that is what CSS is for. So when do you use them?


  • - is a inline element really meant for being used inside paragraphs and sentences.

  • - is a block level element, a stand alone block of text and must include block-level elements such as headings, lists, paragraphs or divas.

  • - now this is tricky as few agree. Some think it should not be used. Some claim it is replacing and better than
    while still others say it is for use when you are for instance not quoting something spoken, but more like if you were to cite a section of a book or something of that nature.


When you use these tags people expect a text from a third person or source and reference to who said/printed it. By simply using it to format text visually you can confuse non visual users when the software interacts with that text in a different way.



You can give credit in different forms like "Stef said...", "in a article at Killersites.com....". However HTML gives us another form. It is the cite attribute.


In a article at killersites forum LSW stated "MTV In your face" style Flash animation - this is what I call extreme fast, sometimes really excessive flash design styles. Flash can, with its fast color changes and strobe effects, actually trigger a seizure in a epileptic that can land them in the Hospital. It also distracts the attention of the user who may have attention problems, cognitive problems that make text hard to understand when read, or even people who are simply nervous and antsy and trying to concentrate while this animation is screaming for you to watch it instead. Also any information within a Flash movie is rarely available for blind visitors.


This way we state who said something and you have included a link to the web page on the web where the quote can be found. It is also a longer text so Blockquote was chosen rather than quote. This is the best way to do it, but it is not required, just technically correct. You can also cite a book name and what page printed by whoever, it is just so those interested know where you got the quote.


Here again things get hazy, The cite attribute is not a actual link to that source so it is limited in it?s ability to be accessed, nor does it show in any way on your site. I have found references suggesting the use of the title attribute to have a tool tip with the URL show. This would seem to be an acceptable compromise to which I have yet to find any solid arguments against.


Quotation Marks

Here it gets tricky once again. Not well known or supported, the quote tags are intended to insert " " themselves. That is to say when a browser sees these tags it will insert quotation marks itself. This is however poorly supported by browsers. So pragmatic designers will say it is not supported so I will place them by hand so it is clear visually it is a quote. Idealists like myself may say "it is supposed to insert them so I will not, I will wait till the browsers actually support this". Face it, I am coding correctly and it is the browser people who are dropping the ball.


The result if placing them by hand, will make it look like a quote: "LSW is the greatest web designer of all time" in IE, but those browsers that do support this standard will have the browser inserted quotes as well as those hand inserted ones ""LSW is the greatest web designer of all time.""


The result if left out is: LSW is the greatest web designer of all time, in IE and does not look like a quote unless I tweak the quote tags in CSS and think of some extra way to make it stick out. But those browsers who do support the standard will look like: "LSW is the greatest web designer of all time" in a semantically right way. Firefox/Netscape 6/Mozilla/Camino &Opera will show it right today, IE does not.



XHTML 2.0 is in the works. One of the changes being considered is dropping the auto-insertion of " ", this would mean that the standard for XHTML does not insert the " " but the standard for HTML does. This leads to problems as above. As I have discussed before, XHTML 1.1 and later versions must be served as XML using application/xhtml+xml. IE6 however does not support this, so you must serve IE6 standard HTML using Content Negotiation. If you serve your page as HTML then normally the quotation marks would be added which we now know is not the case with IE6 and below. IE7 could begin doing this, and you would then have double quotation marks. On the other hand IE7 is said to support XML finally so would not require content negotiation.


Basically IE's failure comes as a Plus to us. If IE7, it will support XHTML and not insert quotes. If IE6, it must be served as HTML which should insert quotes but due to poor support it will not so your manually placed quotes are the only ones to be seen. So, clear as mud?



Edit: A few comments down Dawg posted to excellant links on the subject of the correct symbols for quotes and where to put your periods. Good reading and worth mentioning here should you not read all the way down to Dawgs post. Thanks dude! Good Call!

Quotation Marks: Where Do the Commas and Periods Go--and Why?

Use true quotation marks and apostrophes


Edit: This was written in October of 2005 - we now know that IE7 does not support XHTML as we had hoped. Nor can we be sure if it ever will as many question XHTML usefulness.

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