This is related to this question on ELL meta about EL&U quoting.

This ELL question has an answer consisting only of a quote from quora. Is this appropriate? I edited it to make it clear that it is a block quote, but I don't know if it should be left open at all. The guidance in the other meta question I mentioned seems to only apply to block quotes from EL&U.

  • 2
    I don't think it is appropriate, although if there was some discussion of the content relating it back to the question, a large quote might be OK.
    – ColleenV
    Jan 30, 2015 at 13:31

3 Answers 3


It is not an ELL answer if all it is is a quote from an outside source.

I would consider other SE answers such as ones on EL&U "an outside source" in this regard, which is why we link to them, but don't simply block quote them. Else, we could answer many a question by block-quoting, rather than linking to or perhaps quoting portions of, an EL&U answer.


I think there are some relevant points in an answer to the 'How can I link to an external resource in a community-friendly way?' discussion on Meta. It's not exactly what we're talking about, but the spirit of it applies:

In my experience, posts with links are not downvoted if all these conditions are met:

  • you paraphrase the content of the linked item (possibly omitting details or examples)
  • you identify the author (yourself, MSDN, etc)
  • someone could benefit from the answer without reading the linked item at all
  • you include information to let the reader decide if clicking the link is worthwhile

I think a properly attributed answer that is merely a block quote satisfies the someone could benefit from the answer without reading the linked item at all criteria, but doesn't meet the paraphrase the content of the linked item criteria.

In my opinion, explaining things in different ways makes it easier for more people to benefit from an answer. Sure the dictionary may seem clear enough, but explaining something from your unique perspective could help someone have an "Aha!" moment and really understand something where reading the dictionary entry might have just been an "uh, OK" moment.

You should assume that if it was easy for you to find what you're quoting, most of the folks landing on your answer will have found it too. What can you add that will make the ELL version of the text more useful than where it came from? Could you invent a better, or more interesting, or funnier example? Could you rewrite the explanation in simpler words or with shorter sentences? Could you make it more specific to the question that was asked?

If you're finding that it's difficult to add more explanation to what you've quoted, it's very likely that the question needs to be improved. Are you sure that the question is as simple as it seems? Do you have an idea of why the author asked the question? Sometimes asking for clarification can cause a question to become a lot more interesting.

  • I'd say that anyone who posts a relevant excerpt from a reliable resource, and cite the source is fulfilling points 2,3 and 4. I used to think that if a user found and posted an answer with a link and a chunk of quoted text, that meant the answer was Googleable. But it's a skill knowing how to search and find the answer to a problem, don't knock any user for using this ability for the greater good. .
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 21, 2016 at 18:46
  • The majority of questions posted on ELL are NOT Googleable in five, ten, or even fifteen minutes. The requests are oftentimes too specific and localized to be of any use but to the questioner and the answerer themselves. But there's no denying that people usually prefer to read a clear, and where possible, simple explanation in the users own words than a long wall of text.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 21, 2016 at 18:49
  • @Mari-LouA I think if many of our questions are able to be completely answered by a block quote from another source, we should be working a little harder to improve the questions. It does take skill to find answers to certain questions on the Internet, but someone who can find the answer probably knows enough to explain the answer in their own words instead of just copying and pasting from elsewhere. Linking a resource to support an answer, or to provide more detail is a good thing to do, but if the answer doesn't add anything to the excerpted text it isn't a good as it could be.
    – ColleenV
    Oct 21, 2016 at 19:14

A similar question can be asked (and answered) about answers which are substantially block quotes from other sites. For instance, see these answers:




(This last example does not even block quote all the copied text.)


(This last answer is mine.)

In all these, very little has been included besides the block quote.

It is my natural inclination to think that these do not make for good Stack Exchange answers, because this makes SE a place to find answers that are just (or substantially just) links to other sites. However, as my understanding of SE and SE: ELL is not perfect, I'm willing to be corrected and even change my thinking and behavior regarding the appropriateness of such answers. (Thus my own answer above.)

  • 3
    Although I might opine it is preferable to explain and provide answers in our own words, there is nothing wrong in posting a link and selecting the relevant information which helps and answers the OP. Some users lack confidence in writing detailed answers in a language that is not their mother tongue, but they may very well know what the answer is, and so look for backup. I also find it objectionable, and bordering on pettiness, that you look for excuses to point out the perceived shortcomings of one user in particular..
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 14, 2016 at 15:47
  • 1
    For the most part, the answers you link to could probably be improved by adding some more original content. However, the fact that such answers are permitted to reside on the site should not be interpreted to mean that these are model answers that should be emulated.
    – J.R. Mod
    Oct 14, 2016 at 21:58

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