Six Ways to Style Blockquotes

Published July 15, 2008 by CSS Newbies.

The blockquote XHTML tag is a fairly useful (if somewhat underused) element. Semantically speaking, a blockquote should be used any time you’re quoting a longer piece of text from another source – another speaker, another website, whatever. It’s a way of setting the text apart, and showing that it came from some other source. Stylistically, you could accomplish all this with a special class on your paragraph tags… but that wouldn’t be as semantically useful, now, would it?

Blockquotes do have some styling by default. Most browsers will indent the text in a blockquote tag, which helps the user recognize that the text is different somehow. But who’s to say that we need to stop there? Here are six different ways you could style your blockquotes using CSS.

Color and Borders

Applying a color change to the text and adding a border (along with some additional margins and padding) can really make the blockquote stand out, yet is subtle enough to retain a hint of sophistication.

blockquote {
	margin: 1em 3em;
	color: #999;
	border-left: 2px solid #999;
	padding-left: 1em; }

Background Colors

If you’d like something a little more obvious than just a text color change, you might considering altering your background color instead. This causes the blockquote to “pop,” making it immediately more noticeable. When applying background colors, be sure to account for any tags inside that might alter your margins (such as paragraph tags).

blockquote {
	margin: 1em 3em;
	padding: .5em;
	background-color: #f6ebc1; }
blockquote p {
	margin: 0; }

Background Colors and Borders

Of course, we’re not just limited to either-or, here. A background color in addition to a border in a complementary color is a nice effect, particularly on sites that are a little bit more “glossy.”

blockquote {
	margin: 1em 3em;
	padding: .5em 1em;
	border-left: 5px solid #fce27c;
	background-color: #f6ebc1; }
blockquote p {
	margin: 0; }

Background Images

We’re also not just limited to colors! Many websites make use of background images in their blockquotes to help distinguish them from the surrounding text. The background image might appear below the text, or perhaps off to the side (like we’ve done here) by way of a wider left padding.

blockquote {
	margin: 1em 20px;
	padding-left: 50px;
	background: transparent url(quote.gif) no-repeat; }

Drop-Caps and Styled Lines

Borrowing from my Book-Style Chapter Introductions article, we can also distinguish our blockquotes by using drop-caps, stylized text, or (in this example’s case) both at the same time. Here, we’re making use of the first-letter and first-line pseudo-classes, so browser support may not be 100% in older browsers.

blockquote {
	margin: 1em 2em;
	border-left: 1px dashed #999;
	padding-left: 1em; }
blockquote p:first-letter {
	float: left;
	margin: .2em .3em .1em 0;
	font-family: "Monotype Corsiva", "Apple Chancery", fantasy;
	font-size: 220%;
	font-weight: bold; }
blockquote p:first-line {
	font-variant: small-caps; }

Text and Color

Or, if you’d rather go the subtle-but-effective route, you might consider altering the color of the text in the blockquote, as well as the font style or variant. Also in this example, I’m making use of the :before and :after pseudo-classes to insert content into my document – namely, the quotation marks at the beginning and end of the text. Of course, :before and :after aren’t supported by all browsers, so… caveat emptor, and all that.

blockquote {
	color: #66a;
	font-weight: bold;
	font-style: italic;
	margin: 1em 3em; }
blockquote p:before {
	content: '"'; }
blockquote p:after {
	content: '"'; }

You can see all of these examples live here. And if you’ve seen any other great examples of well-styled blockquotes in the wild (or just have a wild idea yourself), I’d love to hear about them: leave me a comment!

130 Responses

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  5. Dan (reply)

    Is it not possible to expand the size of the blockquote? I wrote a post in which I wanted to include an application I wrote for a university but the slightly darker background cuts off before the quote is finished. The indent is correct through and through but the size bothers me. For now, I’ve chosen to upload it as a .pdf file instead but surely there’s a simple way to get around this problem?

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    Holy good God! Thank you for posting this! I have been trinyg to get my CSS right for-ev-er and couldn’t get it right until I found this page (me and HTML/code just don’t get along!) And thanks to the above post I was able to get my frame around the blockquote so YAY I no longer have to type it all out! -Shellie

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