I found this answer on Twitter:

Are there Italian customs that a North American should be aware of?

It's a great answer, but.. it's two brief lines of intro text, followed by 9 long paragraphs of content copied and pasted directly from another site.

I'm fine with quoting for context, in case the linked site goes down, and so you don't have to click through to get "the answer". But this seems... excessive.

What should the policy, if anything, be on such extensive quoting from a single site in an answer?

  • About 8 hours after Jeff asked this, the question was closed as too broad. I guess this makes evaluating the particular answer being discussed rather moot.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 8:05
  • 1
    I think it does not alter the basic question, i.e. how much quoting should we allow?. And the example is still relevant because it is an extreme case and shows some not so good practice.
    – user3470
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 9:32

3 Answers 3


Extensive quoting should be discouraged, if only for a very practical reason -- if the relevant material is very long, it's better to provide a summary together with a link back to the referenced page. It's doubtful that all of the quoted portion is necessary to be quoted verbatim.

As for how much is "too long", it boils down to personal preference. In most practical cases, a few sentences to a few paragraphs should suffice; longer passages can be retold in brief with interspersed quotes if necessary.


As the answerer, I should point out it was written in the very first week of the beta. Our practices have changed a lot since, and I don't think I or anyone else would provide an answer like that these days.

Saying that, should it just be paraphrased? Is there much point paraphrasing when the exact quote is perfect for the user? If we just link and it changes or vanishes, we lose it. I guess it comes down to personal preference and how much we judiciously quote, snip or paraphrase... :/

  • You don't need to paraphrase it. A summary of 2 or 3 sentences followed by the link would have been enough. Anyway id a question can be answered by a single link it should probably not be here:meta.travel.stackexchange.com/questions/1447/…
    – user3470
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 6:37
  • Moreover if a "link" is never to be seen again it probably wasn't wort it. Good things stay.
    – user3470
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 6:38
  • Your link there refers to the discussion on political names, I don't see how it is relevant to single-link posts?
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 6:41
  • Sorry here is the correct one meta.travel.stackexchange.com/questions/1430/…
    – user3470
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 6:47
  • That link also doesn't mention single links posts anywhere, unless I'm missing it?
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 4:57
  • But it mentions "questions that don't improve the internet". That's why it is there
    – user3470
    Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 7:10

Quoting is just a means to an end and should be used parsimoniously. Quotes should be used to back what you say or to illustrate a particular point. What is nice about this site, as well as forums and mailing lists in general is the personal touch. Users are writing a text and put in their experience, their understanding of a situation etc. and use their words. To suck off data from A to spit it back at B, we don't need humans. Computers are better at this.

I think that the same is true for pictures.

You are right when you say that quoting allows to "preserve" information in case the original sources goes down. But this is outweighed by the fact that the original source may be corrected, updated or improved. That leaves us with an inaccurate piece of information.

A case where quoting makes a lot of sense is when you quote from a source that is not available online or at least not to everybody. But even then it has to be used parsimoniously. Don't abuse.

Regarding the precise case here, I don't think that the answer is great. I am surprised to see it got a score of 13 (and now 12). What's so great about copy-pasting? An answer of a user who provides personal first-hand experience only got 6 (and now 7) votes. That's a bit weird. This being said, the question is debatable too. It is either too broad and opinion based. Not the kind of question welcome here.

If quoting is excessive, the users have the possibility to issue a negative vote. And the moderators can interact too. If there is no real original or personal contribution they could remove the answer and put the link into a comment, provided the source is available online.

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