We are in a field where everybody has easy access to the primary text we study, through the paper versions many of us have at home and through online resources which also allow you to compare many different versions. I therefore feel it is not necessary to copy texts verbatim in all cases, especially when it concerns only tangentially related texts.

Below are some examples of post containing a lot of citations. I'd like to avoid situations like these because it requires a lot of scrolling.

What guidelines can we come up with? When should a citation be included and when is it better to only include a reference (and perhaps a link to an online resource)?

Related: How much tangential information should we allow in answers?

2 Answers 2


The quantity or size of quotations is not the issue, I don't think. If a verse is worth citing it's probably worth quoting. The issue is much more that some of these questions and answers are not focused, including tangentially relevant stuff, often without explaining it. Writing good focused and concise answers is a skill which takes some time to learn. If you see some answers you think could do with an edit to cut out fluff, feel free to comment or vote down.

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    If it's clearly "fluff": why not 'comment in any case', 'edit if it's clearly fluff' (lazy quoting) 'or even downvote'? // Comment here: you got a double negative at the beginning. // And length should never be the sole issue/reason for DV. SE users too lazy to read should refrain from any action! Only bad answers get worse by being long and bad. And quotes can be skipped on first glance, but have to be read when voting. Jan 20, 2019 at 10:58
  • @LangLangC Who was talking about lazy users? I never was.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Jan 20, 2019 at 11:32
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    Correct. But this is so systematic and frequent on SE sites that any complaint about length has to be read with that in mind: If length is the only complaint about a post, it is not a valid complaint at all. There is a hard limit on length set forth by the system. Therefore: there cannot be a post that is too long in principle. (The reverse is still true though: Concise is good) Jan 20, 2019 at 11:37
  • @LangLangC concision and length are not opposites. Concision refers to information density; long posts can just as well be concise if they contain a lot of information. When chunks of texts as long as ten verses or more are being quoted, in my experience this is usually a sign that the information density is rather low.
    – user2672
    Jan 20, 2019 at 16:53
  • @Keelan I was referring mainly to the complaints commentators leave. Density in quotes is usually high, but not always super pertinent to the Q (that's our crux here?). As an equivalent to Dtn 4,2 is the guideline for all authors having a lector? Well, ideally. Jan 20, 2019 at 16:59
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    @Keelan - speaking as the record holder for BH.SE's longest post (if you don't like scrolling and lots of citations, don't look here I agree with curiosdanni and LangLangC here. The issue isn't one of citation guidelines on these Qs/As you have used as examples, it is that they are poorly written. The citations are structurally OK, just poorly thought out in their usage and application. Jan 25, 2019 at 16:44
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    @JamesShewey I feel like there is some misunderstanding. I don't have an a priori problem with long posts, only with a high 'signal-to-noise ratio', i.e., when there's a lot of 'fluff'. I have the impression that sometimes citations which are only vaguely related are included and find this unnecessary since the source is so easily accessible (it would be different for secondary literature). Indeed, the problem is that these example posts are badly written, but part of that is that they use (unrelated?) citations without actually clarifying the relationship to the surrounding text.
    – user2672
    Jan 25, 2019 at 17:38

It's a little hard to tell from your image, but it looks like the post has quite of lot of high-lighting in the texts cited, presumably with the intention of drawing specific attention to particular words/phrases/verses in context.

In which case, there isn't a substitute for direct citation.

Of course the question of whether an answer is 'useful' is orthogonal to this question — we should always encourage each other to upvote, downvote, flag, VtC, VtD etc etc in order to help the site mechanics make good answers as visible as possible.

  • Thanks for your thoughts. I have put some recent examples as links in my question, that should make it easier to discuss than that picture. The picture came from the second example. I would say that the quotation of Genesis 18 can be shortened significantly here, and also that of Matthew 25. I agree in principle however, that when text needs to be highlighted that warrants verbatim citation (provided, of course, that the highlighting is justified).
    – user2672
    Jan 19, 2019 at 19:21

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