The answers for certain book-related questions on this site often lack citations for the original source. I want to improve that in my answers. Is there a convention already established for what info to include when referencing a book passage?

I realize that this site is global so page numbers may not be appropriate, but some books like Game of Thrones do not contain numbered chapters so I am unsure how to point someone to an appropriate passage.

  • 1
    Adding these in across the site for existing answers/questions would be a fantastic gift to the community if anyone is looking to give one.
    – DampeS8N
    Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 21:08

2 Answers 2


We've discussed linking to books before, but as far as I can remember we haven't touched on how to cite a passage. On the topic of citing books, I would like to recommend two things:

  • Use the full name of the author and the full title of the work the first time you cite a work in a post (e.g. write “A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin” once, and only then abbreviations such as ASoIaF and GRRM).
  • Provide a link for people who'd like more information about the work. I prefer Wikipedia if applicable, and IMDB or ISFDB as second choices.

For specific passages, when there aren't any chapter numbers, my best suggestion is:

  • Give the page number and the total number of pages for your edition, e.g. “on page 42/224”.
  • Quote the first sentence of the first paragraph you're referring to. Quoting a passage helps people who have the book in a searchable electronic form (and that's everyone if the sentence can be found in Google Books or elsewhere on the web). Making it specifically the beginning of a paragraph helps people who're trying to locate the passage visually in a printed book.
  • Search the passage on Google Books. This sometimes gives you a link to the passage in context. Depending on what agreement Google has with the publisher, you might be find nothing at all, or just a few lines, or the surrounding page, or be able to browse around the passage.
  • Explain how to find the passage in relation with memorable events. (E.g. “after the death of Alice, the first time the viewpoint returns to Bob”.)
  • example
    – user56
    Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 19:06

Other than linking to online documents there is no official citation system in the Stack network, unlike wikipedia. You can however use some the limited html tags to approximate footer notes and what not.

For instance, "Johnny said this"1

1Awesome book by that one guy.

I did this using the <sub> and <sup> tags for sub and super text.

Sorry if this doesn't really answer the original question well.

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