I often bold portions of long quotes so that skim readers can pick up the important parts quickly. I find it cumbersome to note that this formatting is not from the original source, but at the same time, I don't want to unintentionally give some impression that was not intended in the original source.

What are suggestions for how to unobtrusively and neatly note that this formatting is not from the original source?

Is this actually important, or is it well-understood enough that emphasis formatting is often not from the original source?

Are there other options to bold and emphasis formatting that I'm not considering here?

  • It's always bad style, typographically. Then, metoo, we are heavily nudged to do this. Therefore, I'd like much more to nudge SE readers to stop complaining about 'amount of characters to read'/length… Would you be partial to include that angle? (Alternatively: another style guide to accomplish emphasis and/or shortcuts? Alterations to quotes should always be made explicit…) Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 20:24
  • @LangLаngС I'm sorry, which angle is this? If you mean you want to suggest that we don't change formatting at all, yes, you can make that an answer. Fair warning, I'll downvote it.
    – user11643
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 20:27
  • 1
    Angle is: 1. all alterations to quotes should be marked somehow as 'coming from 'OP'' (imo) but: 2. this Q is leading in accepting bold (which is bad) as equivalent (as well as unduly popular/requested) — I'd like this Q to be more open to the (fortcoming) ideas to make long quotes 'more palatable' to average SO-reader. Bold is not equivalent to italics. Using bold is quite revolting to me aesthetically, but I've sinned to this as well. Don't have a solution, but want a more pleasing one accepted here. Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 20:42
  • @LangLаngС I agree with you that bold isn't always aesthetically pleasing. But I think that italics just don't work very well for emphasis. A better approach might(?) be to restructure the answer so that it includes the most relevant part of a quote at the beginning, and expands in more detail and with larger excerpts later on.
    – tim Mod
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 20:52
  • 1
    @LangLаngС I've made the question receptive to options that aren't bold/emphasis formatting.
    – user11643
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 21:02
  • @tim I suppose that leads into summary sections with expanded answer below it kind of style guide. I favor that format for any answer longer than my screen height. I never really thought about putting quick quotes in a summary.
    – user11643
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 21:04
  • 1
    @LangLangC: You may want to ask a meta-question about answer length. The answers might convince you to change your mind!
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 22:09
  • In all practicality, I'd also like to see a style guide recommendation for references: links rot, inline links are obscure, url-shorteners the plague, doi not human readable etc. In my 'fields' and 'when researching the same as OP' I can decode many proper citations when just reading text, yet we are slowed down by 'obscure, but pretty & short underline links' (min: have to hover, most: have to click & load). I'd appreciate an open declaration of approval for long form citations, instead of catering to dayfly comments complaining about length when only visiting for entertainment. Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 13:43

1 Answer 1


Ultimately, I think it should be up to the author of the post. But a style guide for this seems like a great idea!

When modifying a quote (removing parts, changing parts, and also significant formatting changes - which imho includes highlighting), I think it's proper form to mark that change (I don't always do this either, but it does seem like the right thing to do).

Some ways to note emphasis changes might be:

  • the APA guideline for this is to add [emphasis added] after each instance, eg:

This is a test quote. This [emphasis added] is important. And so is this [emphasis added].

Example (emphasis mine):

This is a test quote. This is important. And so is this.

  • the note could also be added at the end, in a footnote:

This is a test quote. This is important. And so is this. (all) emphasis mine

Personally, I'd prefer the last example (and using the first example as a fall-back if the original quote already has emphasis and we need to distinguish between which emphasis was added and which was in the original).

Somewhat related: If a quote needs highlighting, it might be too long; sometimes, context is important; but other times, it's alright to reduce the source to its essentials. Breaking up a quote into multiple parts can also be helpful.

  • 2
    "Example (emphasis mine):" (or "bold mine") is what I commonly use for my own SE answers, for what it's worth. I feel like AP's approach to note each instance is nice and thorough, but it also breaks the flow for a reader. Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 22:41
  • @BryanKrause Maybe breaking the flow was intentional, to force editors and authors to only do it when they thought it was really necessary and avoid over doing it.
    – user11643
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 1:16
  • I try to do this when I remember to do it, but sometimes I just blank and forget to mention it all together.
    – DenisS
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 18:30

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