I have been called out for using blockquotes for the wrong purpose. For quick reference, here's the blockquote in question (taken from this answer):
And this is the request that was made about it:
"That paragraph […] is rendered in quote blocks. That means it's a quote. Where did you get the content from? You should cite your sources. If it's not a quote, it should not be in quote blocks. (If you want Markdown to be extended with more formatting options, request them on Meta.) Thanks."
I personally agree with the commenter. Just like the semantics of HTML tables have been "abused" over and over again for purely aesthetic purposes, so have I abused blockquotes. (I wanted the answer summary to be visually offset / stand out from the remainder of my post.) The problem is, Stack Exchange's Markdown doesn't offer any other formatting option (apart from
code blocks) for indenting some text or putting it in a "box", so blockquotes are what I have been frequently resorting to for this purpose.
On the other hand, the Markdown help doesn't explicitly forbid the use of blockquotes for text other than longer citations. In fact, while it explains how blockquotes can be produced, it doesn't state at all when and for what blockquotes should be used:
(The same goes for many other formatting elements, btw.)
I can only guess that this is because the meaning of blockquotes was assumed to be obvious; and because one of the (if not the) first Stack Exchange sites (Stack Overflow) was directed at programmer types, who are perhaps expected to be familiar with HTML (which also has something called
<blockquote> with explicitly defined semantics).
Therefore I am asking:
Is there a demand for a formatting element that would be appropriate whenever paragraphs of text should somehow stand out from the main text flow; be it for prologues, preambles, asides / side notes, remarks, postscripts, footnotes, etc.?
And if so, is this demand big enough that Stack Exchange's Markdown should have a formatting option for it?
And if so, is the existing blockquote formatting (
>) appropriate, or any other existing formatting, or does something new have to be added?
In either case, I believe the Markdown editing help should be more explicit about the intended semantics of blockquotes (and possibly of other formatting elements). If blockquotes have a clearly defined use case, then it should be stated explicitly. If not, then the help text should include something along these lines:
You can use
>to put one or more text paragraphs in a block that visually stands out from the main flow of text.
Examples of how blockquotes are being used:
Below are some examples of how blockquotes are being used in the wild.
First, let me apologize for using so much content that I posted myself. I don't want to advertise my own posts; it was simply a quick way for me to locate some examples. If anyone has other examples, feel free to edit (and make me look less biased
Also, take note that I am not judging the following examples; you may find that some demonstrate the "intended" / "proper use" of blockquotes, while others may be examples of an "abuse" of blockquote.
(Note that some of these include only the quoted text, while others also include a full or partial bibliographical reference.)
The Stack Exchange engine itself uses blocksquotes to mark duplicate questions as such, and link to previous questions, e.g. here:
For side notes, remarks, etc. that aren't considered as important or relevant to the post as the non-quoted text, e.g. here:
Similar to the above, for postscripts (P.S.), i.e. text that was added to the post later on; e.g. here:
To cite the source of a non-blockquoted blockquote, e.g. here: