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What is the proper way to display a quote? Is it different when you provide a written quotation versus something someone said? Some variation examples I see:

"The ancestor to every action is a thought." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The ancestor to every action is a thought." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The ancestor to every action is a thought." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The ancestor to every action is a thought." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The ancestor to every action is a thought." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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I'd object to the third one as you aren't using a typewriter; -- is a way to indicate a em-dash () when using a typewriter, or sometimes -- is used for an en-dash () and --- for an em-dash. Since you are using a computer you shouldn't use workarounds designed to deal with only having a typewriter.

The form it indicates the writer wants from the typesetter, that is, using an em-dash, is the form I'd go for:

“The ancestor to every action is a thought.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The rest are fine though. There are a lot of different styles used here, that are all valid. If you are writing to a style-guide, then you must see what it has to say on the matter. Though some style-guides are loose on the sort of quote one may use at the top of a chapter or start of a book, no style-guide is loose on quotes more generally.

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+1. I use close-set em dashes in sentential contexts, but I feel for a quote, any symbol used—even an em dash—should be set off by spaces; other than that, agreed completely. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 6 '14 at 12:07
@JanusBahsJacquet personally, I think full spaces are much too large with em-dashes, and many style guides will allow the lack of space. If it weren't on the web, I'd use hair-spaces or 6-to-1-em spaces, but on the web I wouldn't unless I was providing the font myself via CSS as quite a few people have system that don't have font-support for that, so it would end up looking like ?—? or �—� or with boxes with the hexadecimal of the code-points. – Jon Hanna Feb 6 '14 at 12:11
In normal sentences, I agree. For quotes, though, I think the unspaced (or even narrowly spaced) version looks too cramped. When typesetting, I would normally have the attribution on an entirely different line, preceded by an em dash and a space; so leaving it stacked up against the quote just looks terribly tight to me. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 6 '14 at 12:22
@JanusBahsJacquet actually, I just found myself using the sort of spacing you argue for here; sometimes when we come to describe our own practice we get it wrong. Still, I maintain that both are reasonable styles. – Jon Hanna Feb 6 '14 at 13:20

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