Typically, a short story which is identified here will have appeared in several different magazines, anthologies, or collections, and the text may (or may not) vary slightly or considerably from one publication to another. In answering a story-identification question (or any other kind of question) with quotations from the text, how important is it to specify the exact edition being quoted? Is it mandatory, or is it optional, or is it considered noise? If the answer is that it's mandatory, does that mean we should revise our old answers with imprecisely attributed quotations?

  • 4
    Less important than putting the text in a quote block, to me!
    – user31178
    Apr 7, 2016 at 1:47

1 Answer 1


When there are relevant differences between editions, please specify which one you're using.

Can Molly Weasley apparate? is a good example of a question in which the answer depends on a quote which appears in one edition but not another of the Harry Potter books, both editions being very widespread. So the answer should specify which edition is being quoted from.

If the OP of a story-ID question specifically remembers a scene which was in one version of the story but not another (hypothetical, but you may have a concrete example which inspired this meta post), then again a good answer would specify which particular version is what the OP is looking for.

In general, specifying which edition you're quoting from is recommended but not mandatory.

Unless you own two editions of the same book, or you happen to be an expert on all the different versions of it, you probably won't know how much they differ from each other and whether the differences are relevant. So to be on the safe side, it's probably best to specify which edition you're quoting from, just in case there do turn out to be relevant differences which you weren't aware of.

But making this a requirement would be a massive pain for a lot of people and cause more problems than it solved. I suspect most people (including myself) own a copy of a book without knowing what edition it is, or how many editions there are, or how specific they need to be to ensure there's no ambiguity. Forcing people to specify edition every time they provide a book quote in an answer would make people afraid to provide quotes, which would lower the quality of answers. Let's not go there.

And finally, just to remind everyone how important these between-version differences can be ...

Han shot first!

  • Mainly I was wondering about how to comply with the Help Center page on "How to reference material written by others"; it's not really made clear what the requirements are for citing printed sources. Of course which version you're quoting is especially important in history-of questions; e.g., if we're looking for the earliest story with some gadget, it matters whether you're quoting the 1930 original or a (possibly revised) 1950 reprint.
    – user14111
    Apr 6, 2016 at 4:52
  • 3
    999 times out of a thousand it won't make the blindest bit of difference. On those 1 in 1000 times that it makes a difference, often that's more interesting than the original question.
    – Valorum
    Apr 6, 2016 at 7:52
  • Also, most people (I think) are just quoting from (sometimes unofficial) ebooks. At least the people who quickly post long quotes.
    – ibid
    Apr 6, 2016 at 19:51
  • 1
    @ibid I type out most of my book quotes by hand from paper books. But you're probably right in general, and I'm the exception rather than the rule here.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Apr 6, 2016 at 19:53
  • @Randal'Thor Same here, I typo out my quotes from paper books or magazines, when available.
    – user14111
    Apr 7, 2016 at 1:42
  • @CreationEdge - Googleing "<book title> filetype:pdf" will often find ebooks consisting of plaintext with no title page. (Presumably taken from OCR)
    – ibid
    Apr 7, 2016 at 2:36
  • How would you know who shot first?! Impostor!
    – user31178
    Apr 9, 2016 at 2:03

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