More on quotation

First, think about why we quote:

  • Quotations can be used to improve your credibility. If you summarize material or put it into your own words, your reader may question whether you’ve done that accurately and completely.
  • A quotation can be used to take advantage of some cleverly worded phrase or sentence.
  • A quotation can be used for technical material that’s difficult to put into your own words (though if this is the case, it may be better to do some background reading, talk to others who have read the article, or find a source that’s easier for you to understand.)

Here’s a quick guide to how to use quotations (we often refer to this as “integrating quotation”).

Here’s a brief recap:

Think before you quote. Be sure not to over-quote. There’s no magic number here, but I’d suggest not using more than two or three quotations per page (as a rough guideline) , and in a short essay I would only rarely use a quotation longer than a sentence. Make sure there is some clear advantage to be gained from using a quotation; if you could just as easily put the material into your own words, with no loss of impact, then that’s usually the way to go.

Incorporate quote into your own sentence. Make sure to use your own wording to introduce the quotation, either as a full sentence followed by a colon, or as a signal phrase to start the sentence. Don’t let your reader run smack-dab from a the period at the end of one sentence into a quotation mark. (It’s disruptive, as if while you were speaking on stage, someone rushed from behind the curtains and grabbed the microphone out of your hands.)

Indicate omissions or changes. If you need/want to change any of the wording within the quotation, use ellipsis points–three periods– in square brackets to mark where words have been omitted, as in “Some people […] believe that pigs can fly,” or put explanatory added words in square brackets, as in “she [Mrs. Claus]

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