Example sentences literary quotation
The conceit provides a vehicle for lively dialogue, replete not only with light quips and literary quotation, but also with heavyweight theoretical dissertations on, inter alia, the poetics of influence.
The score includes a brief literary quotation at the start of each movement.
Literary quotations are not always identified and when they are it can be without edition or page number.
Each themed chapter, complete with illustrations, maps, diagrams and literary quotations, stands alone as a mini-museum in tribute to exploration.
Contrary to what many people think, you need neither a great knowledge of the classics nor a mind stocked with literary quotations to enjoy the puzzle's subtlety.
Definition of 'literary' literary
Definition of 'quotation' quotation
Cobuild collocations literary quotation, browse alphabetically literary quotation.
- literary output
- literary phenomenon
- literary pretensions
- literary quotation
- literary reference
- literary remains
- literary reputation
- All ENGLISH words that begin with 'L'
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Describing the completed Oxford English Dictionary in 1933, its two surviving editors William Alexander Craigie and Charles Talbut Onions identified its unrivalled collection of quotations as the essential element in the work:
Its basis is a collection of some five millions of excerpts from English literature of every period amassed by an army of voluntary readers and the editorial staff. Such a collection of evidence […] could form the only possible foundation for the historical treatment of every word and idiom which is the raison d’être of the work […] It is a fact everywhere recognized that the consistent pursuit of this evidence has worked a revolution in the art of lexicography. ( Craigie and Onions, vol. 1, 1933: v ; see also ‘The Special Character of the Dictionary’ .)
But how were these excerpts or quotations chosen? Given their central role in the dictionary, it was important that they represented the complete range of the language over the entire history of its use. Certainly that had been the aim of the Philological Society members who had initiated the creation of the new dictionary in the 1850s, as well as James A. H. Murray and his co-editors. Identifying suitable works for volunteer readers to quarry for quotations had therefore always been fundamental to the project, and successive appeals to the public, issued from the late 1850s onwards, listed texts of many different types: historical, religious and political writings, letters and journals, publications relating to trades, pastimes, arts and crafts and domestic households, translations of classical literature, poems, plays, stories and novels ( Brewer 2000 ; Gilliver 2016 ).
Nevertheless, once the published dictionary appeared—and in particular, once the second edition of the OED (which reproduced the original text of the first edition virtually in its entirety) had been digitized, so that for the first time the dictionary could be systematically searched—it became evident that the editors had hugely favoured literary authors for its citations. Nearly two million of those original five million quotations had been reproduced in the printed text, and the most cited individual sources turned out to be the major figures of the Victorian literary canon: Shakespeare, Walter Scott, Milton, Chaucer, Dryden, Dickens, Tennyson, followed by a host of other such writers. The figures are striking: Shakespeare was quoted around 33,300 times in all, Scott 15,000, Milton 12,500 times, dwarfing the individual totals for those writing in non-literary genres.
Why was this so, given that today’s dictionaries do not now turn to literary writers as representative of the use of the general lexicon? The answer is that this is a comparatively recent development, following the development of the modern science of linguistics during the twentieth century. By contrast, over the nineteenth and early twentieth century, as well as earlier, literary works were seen as having a special status in national culture, and therefore to have an exemplary role in the documentation of the language (see further Examining the OED . )
James Murray displayed some interesting signs that he did not regard literary usage as paramount in the way that his contemporaries did, not least for purely practical reasons. When discussing the public reception of the first instalment of the dictionary, he told his fellow members of the Philological Society that ‘the general principle on which we have chosen a quotation for any century has been to take that which was intrinsically the best for its purpose, without any regard to its source or authority’, and that tracking down ‘literary quotations’ (in contrast to those from newspapers, which had been objected to by some reviewers) would have been impossibly time-consuming ( Murray 1884: 525 ; see also Murray 1977: 223 ). 1
Nevertheless he continued to expend considerable energy in identifying the meaning of unusual words or senses that had been used by ‘great writers’ of the time. In 1879 he had asked George Eliot about her choice of adust for her novel Romola ( 791205A , 791206A ), a word later printed in the dictionary with Romola cited as sole example of use and the definition glossed ‘So explained by the author quoted’. In 1887 he wrote to Robert Louis Stevenson with a similar inquiry: ‘We are puzzled by the word brean in the following quotation from ‘The Merry Men’ in Cornhill June 1882, which some industrious reader has sent in for the Dicty’ ( 870219B ); in this case, however, he was only able to elicit the apologetic confession from Stevenson that brean had been a misprint for ocean ( 870200A ) .
Years later in the editing process, Murray was still intent on elucidating the special vocabulary of literary authors, for example the vanishingly rare word harvestry , as used by the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne , and outwards and thwarteous, both found in works by the poet laureate Robert Bridges ( 030106A , 120112A ). Swinburne had ‘no idea where I may have used’ harvestry , and Murray and his staff couldn’t find it either, so the word was included in the dictionary with no supporting quotation (see 970607A and note 1 of this letter respectively). Bridges’ use of outward turned out to be most unusual—to this day it is the only example in the OED of the plural form of the noun—while Bridges himself could give little help with thwarteous : ‘As I remember nothing about this word I think it best to say nothing’ ( 030106A , 120112A ).
These and similar responses must have influenced Murray’s own opinions on the vocabulary choices of poets, as expressed in response to an inquiry on the meaning of voidee-cup in a poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti ( 010308A ):
One must not take the language of poets too seriously. One cannot now ask Rossetti where he got it or how he coined it; but if I may infer from the results of appealing to other poets for explanation of their cruces, he would probably say ‘I have really forgotten; I was under the impression that I had seen or heard it somewhere; can I have been under a misapprehension? what terrible people you dictionary fellows are, hunting us up about every word; you make life a burden.”
Such sentiments seem to have had little influence on the quotations published in the dictionary, however—and nor did Murray’s reported view ‘that novel reading was a waste of time’ ( Murray 1977: 24 ).
It seems obvious now that the lexicographers’ interest in intensive documentation of literary authors will inevitably have distorted the linguistic record, in particular the OED ’s representation of the language of everyday uses. As one of the principal editors of the modern version of the OED has observed, ‘Many of the concerns of the kitchen, the workshop, and the farmyard need never feature in literature at all […] if the records exist, a word is likely to be attested in what one might call “ordinary” everyday use before it appears in the “artificial” environment of literary writing’ ( Weiner 2000: 171 ). In consequence, the OED3 revision (2000 onwards) is seeking to rectify this distortion, searching and quoting from a much wider range of sources, in particular newspapers and journals (see Examining the OED ).
The OED ’s literary bias had (and has) cultural consequences too. The representation of favoured literary authors, as listed above, reflects distinctively Victorian and Edwardian judgements, as can be seen from the remarkable prominence of Walter Scott as well as Shakespeare. Writers now regarded as major figures were neglected (William Blake, for example, was quoted only 100-odd times), women were cited in far fewer numbers than men, and the representation of overseas writers in English seems to have been vanishingly small (see ‘Women and the Dictionary, Part II: Authors’ and ‘English around the World’ respectively).
Notwithstanding these reservations, the OED ’s literary bias means that its first edition (and to a considerable extent its succeeding versions, too) is an invaluable tool in elucidating the language of the major writers in traditional accounts of English literature whose vocabulary was so meticulously examined by the lexicographers. The potential of the dictionary to aid what one might call the lexical fingerprinting of individual authors was seen by one of Murray’s early correspondents, Constance Mary Pott , who wrote to him hoping for evidence to support her theory that Francis Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. Murray demolished her arguments with a cruelty no doubt kindly intended, while responding with some intensity to her underlying hypothesis that the dictionary would be able ‘to give you information as to what authors first used the words’. For that, as he explained ( 801200B ),
you must wait till the Dictionary appears, one of the aims of which is to give you the first known use of each word in the language. The quotations which I have now as the raw-material of the Dictionary number about 2½ millions …I doubt whether 3 weeks’ uninterrupted labour would enable me satisfactorily to give you a first date for each word; and with 15 years’ work before me, 3 hours is more than I ought to spend on it. I have nevertheless spent three times three in testing your work at various points, which were most convenient to myself, and which seemed most important for you […]
Establishing which authors had been the first to use a word in print—i.e. that if not the first to ‘coin or modify’ new words, which authors had at least ‘introduced them into the household & into General Society’ (a selective quotation from 801214A )—is a powerful indicator of their relative lexical inventiveness and/or their readiness to adopt newly current uses of language, something of great interest both to literary critics and to readers more generally.
Today’s version of the OED is not electronically searchable in ways which allow us to distinguish between revised and unrevised entries, so like Pott we will have to wait until the revision is complete (perhaps 2040) before we can use its evidence reliably for such studies. 2 In the meantime, however, the OED is routinely (and gratefully) used by literary and cultural historians for the quality and characteristics of its quotation evidence as it stands: no other existing dictionary approaches the historical range and depth of the work initiated by Murray and the other editors of the first edition .
Brewer, Charlotte. (2010). ‘The Use of Literary Quotations in the Oxford English Dictionary ’, Review of English Studies , 61(248), 93 – 125 . Accessible at. https://oed.hertford.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Brewer-2010.pdf .
Brewer, Charlotte. (2012). ‘Shakespeare, Word-coining, and the OED ’. In Peter Holland (Ed.), Shakespeare Survey (vol. 64, pp. 345 – 357). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Accessible at https://oed.hertford.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Brewer_2012.pdf .
Brewer, Charlotte. (2015). ‘“That Reliance on the Ordinary”: Jane Austen and the Oxford English Dictionary ’. Review of English Studies , 66(276), 744–765. Accessible at https://oed.hertford.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Brewer_Austen_2015.pdf .
Considine, John. (2009). ‘Literary Classics in OED Quotation Evidence’. Review of English Studies , 60(246), 620–638.
Crystal, David. (2004). The Stories of English . Allen Lane: London. (See chapter 13, ‘Linguistic Daring’, on Shakespeare and other writers.)
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Quotations are like flavorful ingredients in writing. They add new perspectives, support arguments, and allow writers to craft in-depth analyses. Writers use quotations in all types of writing, such as research papers and literary analysis essays. Students often use them in essays for classes, research projects, and in writing on…
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Quotations are like flavorful ingredients in writing. They add new perspectives, support arguments, and allow writers to craft in-depth analyses. Writers use quotations in all types of writing, such as research papers and literary analysis essays. Students often use them in essays for classes, research projects, and in writing on standardized exams. But for quotations to be effective, writers have to understand what they are, why they are important, and how to cite them.
Definition of a Quotation
Quotations are words or statements that are not original. There are several types of quotations, but in general:
- A quotation is a word or statement that is taken from another source.
When writers use quotations, they are either taking a word or group of words from another text or writing down what someone has said.
Often people use the word "quotation" and "quote" interchangeably. The word "quote" is often used as a verb, which refers to the act of quoting another source. The word quotation is a noun, referring to content taken from another source.
Importance of Quotations
Ultimately, quoting a source (instead of using the source without credit) is important because it helps prevent plagiarism.
Writers commit plagiarism when they do not use quotations for information from an outside source or provide references for quotations.
Plagiarizing is the act of stealing another's work and passing it off as one's own. Even if a writer accidentally plagiarizes, there are serious consequences. Writers can be suspended or expelled from school, fail an assignment or a class, and lose their academic credibility.
So basically, if you quote something, you need to give credit where it's due. You need to create a reference.
Referencing a Quotation
Here is a chart for MLA style.
Here is a chart for APA style.
Academic writers must include in-text citations and a reference list at the end of their paper. In-text citations go at the end of the sentence that references the author's last name, the year of publication (if using APA), and the page number where the writer found the quotation. For example: (Fitzgerald, 1925, p. 24) is an example of an APA in-text citation.
Applications of Quotations
You can use quotes in two ways for a 5 paragraph essay.
Quotations for Introductions
Quotations can be the hook for your introduction.
A hook is a quote, question, or some form of engaging comment that draws a reader into your essay.
Say you are writing a 5 paragraph essay about the importance of the Civil Rights movement. To draw readers into this topic, you might include a snippet of the speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington in 1963.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
A quote can provide a powerful insight into history, culture, and more.
Quotations for Body Paragraphs
Secondly, you can use quotations as a form of evidence in the body paragraphs of your 5 paragraph essay. This evidence would help support the specific argument of a given paragraph.
For instance, imagine a writer is trying to argue that the character Holden Caufield from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Ry e (1951) suffers from depression. Using quotations from Holden that reveal his feelings and perspectives helps the writer prove this point. Similarly, imagine a writer trying to convince readers they can help the environment by following a vegetarian diet. Including quotations from scientists about the link between meat production and climate change strengthens the argument, because the quotations show that credible people support this view.
Quoting isn’t always as simple as putting quotation marks around something, though. In fact, some quotes don’t have quotation marks at all! Now is a good time to understand the different ways you can quote a source.
Types of Quotations
There are several types of quotations, and the formatting and referencing style for quotations vary a bit depending on the type used.
Direct quotations are quotations that a writer takes verbatim from another source.
Verbatim means the quotations are copied word for word.
It is effective for writers to use direct quotations when referencing the definition of a term, using quotations to support an argument, or analyzing other writing.
For example, in a literary analysis essay, writers often include short, direct quotations from a piece of literature and then break them down through detailed analysis. Writers should strive to avoid including too many direct quotations when writing an academic essay, as their priority should be developing original arguments. Direct quotations only offer support or evidence for a writer's unique ideas.
Writers need to put direct quotations in quotation marks. Quotation marks denote that the information is from another source. There are two types of quotation marks: opening and closing. Opening quotation marks go at the beginning of a sentence, and closing quotation marks go at the end of a sentence.
When using an in-text citation, punctuation goes after the parentheses at the end of the sentence. For example, this is how you would format the following quotation from chapter 5 of Kurt Vonnegut's book Slaughterhouse Five (1969) using APA style: "Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt" (Vonnegut, 1969, p. 156). Note how the period comes after the closing parentheses, not before the closing quotation mark.
When a direct quotation is a complete sentence, the first letter has to be capitalized.
Indirect quotations are statements that writers paraphrase from another source. When writers paraphrase, they do not take information word for word, but they put the information in their own words. For example, imagine a writer wants to indirectly quote Barack Obama, who said,
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. 1
The writer might say:
Obama says that people should not wait for change and instead make it themselves. (Obama, 2008).
Indirect quotations like this one do not go in quotation marks since the writer is not quoting the source verbatim. However, indirect quotations still need proper citation because the idea came from another source.
Quotations in Fictional Dialogue
Fiction writers also use quotation marks to surround dialogue. This is because these characters are speaking to one another. The quotation marks denote that those lines of text are spoken and are verbatim records of what a person said. For instance, the following example features lines of dialogue between the narrator Nick and the character Gatsby in Chapter 6 of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925). Note how Fitzgerald used quotation marks around the dialogue.
"I wouldn't ask too much of her," I ventured. "You can't repeat the past."
"Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"
Direct quotations from fiction novels like this can be used as evidence in an analytical essay. For example, imagine a writer wanting to argue that Gatsby's love for Daisy caused his downfall. They might reference the above dialogue as evidence for this claim.
Examples of Quotations
Many quotations come from other texts such as books, scholarly journal articles, official reports, or essays. Such quotations could be used to support unique arguments in research papers and literary analysis essays. For example, imagine a prompt asking a student to write an essay about how historical context can impact writing. The student might argue that historical context shapes the themes writers choose to explore. The student could then use the following direct quotation from James Baldwin's essay "Stranger in the Village" (1953) in which he reflects on the way historical stereotypes about African Americans impact how white people treat him:
People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.
Sometimes writers need to put single quotation marks around the quotations within the text. For instance, the following passage cites dialogue from Ernest Hemingway's fictional novel A Farewell to Arms (1929):
At the end of Chapter 19, Hemingway uses rain as a metaphor for Catherine's fears. "Outside the rain was falling steadily. 'I don't know, darling. I've always been afraid of the rain.'" (Hemingway, 1929, p. 117).
Note how the writer of this sentence put double quotations around the entire passage and then single quotations around what the character Catherine said. Writers use single quotation marks like these to indicate a quotation within a quotation. This is an important skill for writers who analyze literature, as they often need to include quotations from books like this to support their analysis.
Quotations - Key Takeaways
- Quotations are important because help prevent plagiarism . Quoted material can hook an audience and add evidence .
- Direct quotations are verbatim quotations that require quotation marks.
- Indirect quotations are paraphrased ideas and do not require quotation marks. They do still require a reference or citation.
- Writers use quotations to support arguments, analyze text, and enrich fiction.
1. Barack Obama. "Super Tuesday Speech." 2008.
Frequently Asked Questions about Quotations
--> what is the meaning of quotation .
A quotation is a word or statement that is taken from another source.
--> What is an example of a quotation?
An example of a quotation is: "People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them" (Baldwin, 1953).
--> How do you use quotations?
Writers use quotations to support arguments, add new perspectives to their writing, or analyze text.
--> What are some popular quotations?
One popular quotation is: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character" (MLK, 1963).
--> What is the difference between quotations and quotes?
The word quotations and quotes are often used interchangeably, but technically the word quote is a verb that refers to the act of quoting something and quotation is what is actually taken from the other source.
Final Quotations Quiz
Quotations quiz - teste dein wissen.
What is a quotation?
A quotation is a word or statement that is taken from another source.
True or False. The word quotation and the word quote mean the same thing.
False. The word quotation is a noun that references what is taken from another source. The word quote is often used as a verb that refers to the act of taking direct information from another source.
What are the two main types of quotes?
Direct and indirect
What do writers have to do when they use indirect quotes?
Reference the original source.
What do writers need to put at the beginning and end of a direct quote?
True or False. Quotation marks are only found in non-fiction writing.
False. Fiction writers put quotation marks around dialogue.
Why do writers use quotation marks?
All of these
What are direct quotations?
Quotations that are taken verbatim from the source.
When do writers use single quotation marks?
When citing a quote within a quote.
True or false. Only direct quotations need references.
False. Any information taken from an outside source needs to be properly cited.
Dialogue uses single quotes.
A quote comes from a source not the writer or narrator.
"Quotation" and "quote" are interchangeable verbs.
Quotes are not technically references.
You cannot cite a quote using common citation styles.
You can cite a quote within the text or at the end.
Referencing a quote assists in academic integrity.
APA cannot quote websites.
You cannot plagiarize a quote.
You do not need to cite indirect quotes or paraphrase.
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Definition and Examples of Quotation in English Grammar
- An Introduction to Punctuation
- Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
- M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
- B.A., English, State University of New York
A quotation is the reproduction of the words of a speaker or writer.
In a direct quotation , the words are reprinted exactly and placed in quotation marks . In an indirect quotation , the words are paraphrased and not put in quotation marks.
Etymology: From the Latin, "of what number; how many"
Examples and Observations
- "Use quotes when a writer says something so well that you could not possibly capture the idea as well by paraphrasing or summarizing . Quote when your paraphrase would end up being longer or more confusing than the original. Quote when the original words carry with them some importance that helps make a point, such as when the writer is an absolute authority on the subject . . .. "Do not, however, fill your research paper with quote after quote. If you do, your reader is likely to conclude that you really have few or no ideas of your own on the subject or that you have not studied and understood the subject well enough to begin to form your own opinions." (Dawn Rodrigues and Raymond J. Rodrigues, The Research Paper: A Guide to Internet and Library Research , 3rd ed. Prentice Hall, 2003)
- "Poor writers are apt to overuse block quotations . . .. Those who do this abrogate their duty, namely, to write . Readers tend to skip over single-spaced mountains of prose . . .. "Especially to be avoided is quoting another writer at the end of a paragraph or section, a habit infused with laziness. Skillful quoters subordinate the quoted material to their own prose and use only the most clearly applicable parts of the previous writing. And even then, they weave it into their own narrative or analysis, not allowing the quoted to overpower the quoter." (Bryan Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage . Oxford University Press, 2003)
- "Speakers are wordy. They are always speaking in the first draft. Remember, you are aiming for maximum efficiency. That means getting the most work out of the few words, which includes quotes . Don't change the speaker's meaning. Just throw away the words you don't need." (Gary Provost, Beyond Style: Mastering the Finer Points of Writing . Writer's Digest Books, 1988)
- "The accuracy of quotations in research writing is extremely important. They must reproduce the original sources exactly. Unless indicated in brackets or parentheses . . ., changes must not be made in the spelling, capitalization, or interior punctuation of the source." ( MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 2009)
- "Never alter quotations even to correct minor grammatical errors or word usage. Casual minor tongue slips may be removed by using ellipses but even that should be done with extreme caution. If there is a question about a quote, either don't use it or ask the speaker to clarify." (D. Christian et al, The Associated Press Stylebook . Perseus, 2009)
- "Should editors 'correct' quotes? No. Quotes are sacred. "This doesn't mean we need to reproduce every um , every er , every cough; it doesn't mean a reporter's transcription errors can't be corrected; and it certainly doesn't mean that stories should attempt to re-create dialect (plenty of literate people pronounce should have as 'should of'). But it does mean that a reader should be able to watch a TV interview and read the same interview in the newspaper and not notice discrepancies in word choice." (Bill Walsh, Lapsing Into a Comma . Contemporary Books, 2000)
Pronouns in Quotations
- "[P]lease let me indulge in a parenthetical peeve, which has to do with the way in which pronouns can infect sentences that contain interior quotes --the pronouns apparently changing horses in midstream. To give just one random example: 'He arrived at the pier, where he learned that "my ship had come in."' Whose ship The author's ship? Try reading something like that before an audience or on an audio CD. It is factual and correctly punctuated, yes, but it is no less awkward." (John McPhee, "Elicitation." The New Yorker , April 7, 2014)
- "For every summary, paraphrase, or quotation you use, cite its bibliographic data in the appropriate style . . .. Under no circumstance stitch together downloads from the Web with a few sentences of your own. Teachers grind their teeth reading such reports, dismayed by their lack of original thinking." (Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research , 3rd ed. The University of Chicago Press, 2008)
On the Record
- "Ground rules for conversation between reporters and sources come in commonly accepted categories: 'On the record' means that everything said can be used, and the speaker can be quoted by name. "'Not for attribution' and 'on background' are used to mean that a source's comments can be quoted, but he or she must not be directly identified." ("Forms of Speech." Time , Aug. 27, 1984)
- The life I'd been offered was completely unacceptable, but I never gave up hope that my real family might arrive at any moment, pressing the doorbell with their white-gloved fingers. " Oh, Lord Chisselchin, " they'd cry, tossing their top hats in celebration, " thank God we've finally found you. " (David Sedaris, "Chipped Beef." Naked . Little, Brown and Company, 1997)
- "Mr. Duke writes as follows: Benjamin Franklin said, ' The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Here it was again, this time attributed to one of the few men who had a hand in drafting both the Declaration and the Constitution. Could Franklin really have got them confused? . . . "Now I was really intrigued. The wording of the quotation reminded me less of Franklin’s well-known style than of mid-twentieth-century self-help. 'You have to catch it yourself,' I soon discovered, is an exceedingly popular bit of Frankliniana, complete with the awkward reference to the Constitution. It can be found on countless quote-compiling websites, the modern-day equivalent of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations minus the fact-checking. Authors associated with the latest right-wing revival routinely attribute great significance to this quotation. Bloggers love it, especially those bloggers partial to a strict, no-welfare-allowed interpretation of the founding documents. . . . "Nowhere, though, could I find anyone who sourced the phrase back to a primary work by or about Benjamin Franklin. It does not appear in Bartlett’s itself. A search of the authoritative database of Franklin’s writings yields no matches. Google Books assures us it does not come up in any of the major Franklin biographies. I contacted six different Franklin authorities; none had ever heard of it. . . . "[G]iven that it is only a little more difficult to use the Internet to check fake quotes than to reproduce them, one wonders: Why don’t the guardians of Founder purity take that step? Why do fakes proliferate instead of disappear? "I think the answer is that the myths are so much more satisfying than reality. In a 1989 study of spurious quotes, They Never Said It , historians Paul F. Boiler Jr. and John George write that quote fakers 'dream up things that never happened but which they think should have and then insert them into history.'" (Thomas Frank, "Check It Yourself." Harper's Magazine , April 2011)
H.G. Wells on the "Nobler Method of Quotation"
- "The nobler method of quotation is not to quote at all. For why should one repeat good things that are already written? Are not the words in their fittest context in the original? Clearly, then, your new setting cannot be quite so congruous, which is, forthwith, an admission of incongruity. Your quotation is evidently a plug in a leak, an apology for a gap in your own words. But your vulgar author will even go out of his way to make the clothing of his thoughts thus heterogeneous. He counts every stolen scrap he can work in an improvement--a literary caddis worm. Yet would he consider it improvement to put a piece of even the richest of old tapestry or gold embroidery into his new pair of breeks?" (H.G. Wells, "The Theory of Quotation." Certain Personal Matters , 1901)
Michael Bywater on the Lighter Side of Pretentious Quotations
- "[T]here are some figures of speech which are not to be taken at face value, but which are to be taken at precisely their between-the-lines value. Take, for example, the hoary old 'I think it was X who said . . .' followed by a plausible but obscure quote. What that meant was 'I have just looked through my Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and found this quote from Pindar, whom I have never read but who is generally thought to be the marker of a pretty spiffy sort of mind. Since I would like you to think I have a pretty spiffy mind, I wish to give you the impression that I am intimately familiar with the works, not only of Pindar, but of absolutely bloody everybody, so while I am happy to expose to you an inch or so of my massive, throbbing intellectual armamentarium, I do so with the entirely false caveat that, having been plucked from my capacious intellect, it may be falsely labelled." (Michael Bywater, Lost Worlds . Granta Books, 2004)
- Definition and Examples of Direct Quotations
- Difference Between "Quote" and "Quotation": What Is the Right Word?
- Quotation and Quote
- How and When to Paraphrase Quotations
- How to Use Indirect Quotations in Writing for Complete Clarity
- A Guide to Using Quotations in Essays
- What are Ellipsis Points?
- How to Use Block Quotations in Writing
- Guidelines for Using Quotation Marks Correctly
- Examples of Signal Phrases in Grammar and Composition
- What Is Plagiarism?
- Writing Prompt (Composition)
- Writers on Reading
- Examples of Epigraphs in English
- What Is a Citation?
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Frequently asked questions
What is a quote.
A quote is an exact copy of someone else’s words, usually enclosed in quotation marks and credited to the original author or speaker.
Frequently asked questions: Citing sources
A scientific citation style is a system of source citation that is used in scientific disciplines. Some commonly used scientific citation styles are:
- Chicago author-date , CSE , and Harvard , used across various sciences
- ACS , used in chemistry
- AMA , NLM , and Vancouver , used in medicine and related disciplines
- AAA , APA , and ASA , commonly used in the social sciences
There are many different citation styles used across different academic disciplines, but they fall into three basic approaches to citation:
- Parenthetical citations : Including identifying details of the source in parentheses —usually the author’s last name and the publication date, plus a page number if available ( author-date ). The publication date is occasionally omitted ( author-page ).
- Numerical citations: Including a number in brackets or superscript, corresponding to an entry in your numbered reference list.
- Note citations: Including a full citation in a footnote or endnote , which is indicated in the text with a superscript number or symbol.
A source annotation in an annotated bibliography fulfills a similar purpose to an abstract : they’re both intended to summarize the approach and key points of a source.
However, an annotation may also evaluate the source , discussing the validity and effectiveness of its arguments. Even if your annotation is purely descriptive , you may have a different perspective on the source from the author and highlight different key points.
You should never just copy text from the abstract for your annotation, as doing so constitutes plagiarism .
Most academics agree that you shouldn’t cite Wikipedia as a source in your academic writing , and universities often have rules against doing so.
This is partly because of concerns about its reliability, and partly because it’s a tertiary source. Tertiary sources are things like encyclopedias and databases that collect information from other sources rather than presenting their own evidence or analysis. Usually, only primary and secondary sources are cited in academic papers.
A Wikipedia citation usually includes the title of the article, “Wikipedia” and/or “Wikimedia Foundation,” the date the article was last updated, and the URL.
In APA Style , you’ll give the URL of the current revision of the article so that you’re sure the reader accesses the same version as you.
There’s some disagreement about whether Wikipedia can be considered a reliable source . Because it can be edited by anyone, many people argue that it’s easy for misleading information to be added to an article without the reader knowing.
Others argue that because Wikipedia articles cite their sources , and because they are worked on by so many editors, misinformation is generally removed quickly.
However, most universities state that you shouldn’t cite Wikipedia in your writing.
Hanging indents are used in reference lists in various citation styles to allow the reader to easily distinguish between entries.
You should apply a hanging indent to your reference entries in APA , MLA , and Chicago style.
A hanging indent is used to indent all lines of a paragraph except the first.
When you create a hanging indent, the first line of the paragraph starts at the border. Each subsequent line is indented 0.5 inches (1.27 cm).
APA and MLA style both use parenthetical in-text citations to cite sources and include a full list of references at the end, but they differ in other ways:
- APA in-text citations include the author name, date, and page number (Taylor, 2018, p. 23), while MLA in-text citations include only the author name and page number (Taylor 23).
- The APA reference list is titled “References,” while MLA’s version is called “ Works Cited .”
- The reference entries differ in terms of formatting and order of information.
- APA requires a title page , while MLA requires a header instead.
A parenthetical citation in Chicago author-date style includes the author’s last name, the publication date, and, if applicable, the relevant page number or page range in parentheses . Include a comma after the year, but not after the author’s name.
For example: (Swan 2003, 6)
To automatically generate accurate Chicago references, you can use Scribbr’s free Chicago reference generator .
APA Style distinguishes between parenthetical and narrative citations.
In parenthetical citations , you include all relevant source information in parentheses at the end of the sentence or clause: “Parts of the human body reflect the principles of tensegrity (Levin, 2002).”
In narrative citations , you include the author’s name in the text itself, followed by the publication date in parentheses: “Levin (2002) argues that parts of the human body reflect the principles of tensegrity.”
In a parenthetical citation in MLA style , include the author’s last name and the relevant page number or range in parentheses .
For example: (Eliot 21)
A parenthetical citation gives credit in parentheses to a source that you’re quoting or paraphrasing . It provides relevant information such as the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number(s) cited.
How you use parenthetical citations will depend on your chosen citation style . It will also depend on the type of source you are citing and the number of authors.
APA does not permit the use of ibid. This is because APA in-text citations are parenthetical and there’s no need to shorten them further.
Ibid. may be used in Chicago footnotes or endnotes .
Write “Ibid.” alone when you are citing the same page number and source as the previous citation.
When you are citing the same source, but a different page number, use ibid. followed by a comma and the relevant page number(s). For example:
- Ibid., 40–42.
Only use ibid . if you are directing the reader to a previous full citation of a source .
Ibid. only refers to the previous citation. Therefore, you should only use ibid. directly after a citation that you want to repeat.
Ibid. is an abbreviation of the Latin “ibidem,” meaning “in the same place.” Ibid. is used in citations to direct the reader to the previous source.
Signal phrases can be used in various ways and can be placed at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence.
To use signal phrases effectively, include:
- The name of the scholar(s) or study you’re referencing
- An attributive tag such as “according to” or “argues that”
- The quote or idea you want to include
Different citation styles require you to use specific verb tenses when using signal phrases.
- APA Style requires you to use the past or present perfect tense when using signal phrases.
- MLA and Chicago requires you to use the present tense when using signal phrases.
Signal phrases allow you to give credit for an idea or quote to its author or originator. This helps you to:
- Establish the credentials of your sources
- Display your depth of reading and understanding of the field
- Position your own work in relation to other scholars
- Avoid plagiarism
A signal phrase is a group of words that ascribes a quote or idea to an outside source.
Signal phrases distinguish the cited idea or argument from your own writing and introduce important information including the source of the material that you are quoting , paraphrasing , or summarizing . For example:
“ Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker (1994) insists that humans possess an innate faculty for comprehending grammar.”
If you’re quoting from a text that paraphrases or summarizes other sources and cites them in parentheses , APA and Chicago both recommend retaining the citations as part of the quote. However, MLA recommends omitting citations within a quote:
- APA: Smith states that “the literature on this topic (Jones, 2015; Sill, 2019; Paulson, 2020) shows no clear consensus” (Smith, 2019, p. 4).
- MLA: Smith states that “the literature on this topic shows no clear consensus” (Smith, 2019, p. 4).
Footnote or endnote numbers that appear within quoted text should be omitted in all styles.
If you want to cite an indirect source (one you’ve only seen quoted in another source), either locate the original source or use the phrase “as cited in” in your citation.
In scientific subjects, the information itself is more important than how it was expressed, so quoting should generally be kept to a minimum. In the arts and humanities, however, well-chosen quotes are often essential to a good paper.
In social sciences, it varies. If your research is mainly quantitative , you won’t include many quotes, but if it’s more qualitative , you may need to quote from the data you collected .
As a general guideline, quotes should take up no more than 5–10% of your paper. If in doubt, check with your instructor or supervisor how much quoting is appropriate in your field.
To present information from other sources in academic writing , it’s best to paraphrase in most cases. This shows that you’ve understood the ideas you’re discussing and incorporates them into your text smoothly.
It’s appropriate to quote when:
- Changing the phrasing would distort the meaning of the original text
- You want to discuss the author’s language choices (e.g., in literary analysis )
- You’re presenting a precise definition
- You’re looking in depth at a specific claim
To paraphrase effectively, don’t just take the original sentence and swap out some of the words for synonyms. Instead, try:
- Reformulating the sentence (e.g., change active to passive , or start from a different point)
- Combining information from multiple sentences into one
- Leaving out information from the original that isn’t relevant to your point
- Using synonyms where they don’t distort the meaning
The main point is to ensure you don’t just copy the structure of the original text, but instead reformulate the idea in your own words.
“ Et al. ” is an abbreviation of the Latin term “et alia,” which means “and others.” It’s used in source citations to save space when there are too many authors to name them all.
Guidelines for using “et al.” differ depending on the citation style you’re following:
To insert endnotes in Microsoft Word, follow the steps below:
- Click on the spot in the text where you want the endnote to show up.
- In the “References” tab at the top, select “Insert Endnote.”
- Type whatever text you want into the endnote.
If you need to change the type of notes used in a Word document from footnotes to endnotes , or the other way around, follow these steps:
- Open the “References” tab, and click the arrow in the bottom-right corner of the “Footnotes” section.
- In the pop-up window, click on “Convert…”
- Choose the option you need, and click “OK.”
To insert a footnote automatically in a Word document:
- Click on the point in the text where the footnote should appear
- Select the “References” tab at the top and then click on “Insert Footnote”
- Type the text you want into the footnote that appears at the bottom of the page
Footnotes are notes indicated in your text with numbers and placed at the bottom of the page. They’re used to provide:
- Citations (e.g., in Chicago notes and bibliography )
- Additional information that would disrupt the flow of the main text
Be sparing in your use of footnotes (other than citation footnotes), and consider whether the information you’re adding is relevant for the reader.
Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page they refer to. This is convenient for the reader but may cause your text to look cluttered if there are a lot of footnotes.
Endnotes appear all together at the end of the whole text. This may be less convenient for the reader but reduces clutter.
Both footnotes and endnotes are used in the same way: to cite sources or add extra information. You should usually choose one or the other to use in your text, not both.
An in-text citation is an acknowledgement you include in your text whenever you quote or paraphrase a source. It usually gives the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page number of the relevant text. In-text citations allow the reader to look up the full source information in your reference list and see your sources for themselves.
If you are reusing content or data you used in a previous assignment, make sure to cite yourself. You can cite yourself just as you would cite any other source: simply follow the directions for that source type in the citation style you are using.
Keep in mind that reusing your previous work can be considered self-plagiarism , so make sure you ask your professor or consult your university’s handbook before doing so.
A credible source should pass the CRAAP test and follow these guidelines:
- The information should be up to date and current.
- The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
- The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
- For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.
Peer review is a process of evaluating submissions to an academic journal. Utilizing rigorous criteria, a panel of reviewers in the same subject area decide whether to accept each submission for publication. For this reason, academic journals are often considered among the most credible sources you can use in a research project– provided that the journal itself is trustworthy and well-regarded.
Academic dishonesty can be intentional or unintentional, ranging from something as simple as claiming to have read something you didn’t to copying your neighbor’s answers on an exam.
You can commit academic dishonesty with the best of intentions, such as helping a friend cheat on a paper. Severe academic dishonesty can include buying a pre-written essay or the answers to a multiple-choice test, or falsifying a medical emergency to avoid taking a final exam.
Academic dishonesty refers to deceitful or misleading behavior in an academic setting. Academic dishonesty can occur intentionally or unintentionally, and varies in severity.
It can encompass paying for a pre-written essay, cheating on an exam, or committing plagiarism . It can also include helping others cheat, copying a friend’s homework answers, or even pretending to be sick to miss an exam.
Academic dishonesty doesn’t just occur in a classroom setting, but also in research and other academic-adjacent fields.
To apply a hanging indent to your reference list or Works Cited list in Word or Google Docs, follow the steps below.
- Highlight the whole list and right click to open the Paragraph options.
- Under Indentation > Special , choose Hanging from the dropdown menu.
- Set the indent to 0.5 inches or 1.27cm.
- Highlight the whole list and click on Format > Align and indent > Indentation options .
- Under Special indent , choose Hanging from the dropdown menu.
When the hanging indent is applied, for each reference, every line except the first is indented. This helps the reader see where one entry ends and the next begins.
For a published interview (whether in video , audio, or print form ), you should always include a citation , just as you would for any other source.
For an interview you conducted yourself , formally or informally, you often don’t need a citation and can just refer to it in the text or in a footnote , since the reader won’t be able to look them up anyway. MLA , however, still recommends including citations for your own interviews.
The main elements included in a newspaper interview citation across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the names of the interviewer and interviewee, the interview title, the publication date, the name of the newspaper, and a URL (for online sources).
The information is presented differently in different citation styles. One key difference is that APA advises listing the interviewer in the author position, while MLA and Chicago advise listing the interviewee first.
The elements included in a newspaper article citation across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the author name, the article title, the publication date, the newspaper name, and the URL if the article was accessed online .
In APA and MLA, the page numbers of the article appear in place of the URL if the article was accessed in print. No page numbers are used in Chicago newspaper citations.
Untitled sources (e.g. some images ) are usually cited using a short descriptive text in place of the title. In APA Style , this description appears in brackets: [Chair of stained oak]. In MLA and Chicago styles, no brackets are used: Chair of stained oak.
For social media posts, which are usually untitled, quote the initial words of the post in place of the title: the first 160 characters in Chicago , or the first 20 words in APA . E.g. Biden, J. [@JoeBiden]. “The American Rescue Plan means a $7,000 check for a single mom of four. It means more support to safely.”
MLA recommends quoting the full post for something short like a tweet, and just describing the post if it’s longer.
The main elements included in image citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the name of the image’s creator, the image title, the year (or more precise date) of publication, and details of the container in which the image was found (e.g. a museum, book , website ).
In APA and Chicago style, it’s standard to also include a description of the image’s format (e.g. “Photograph” or “Oil on canvas”). This sort of information may be included in MLA too, but is not mandatory.
The main elements included in a lecture citation across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the name of the speaker, the lecture title, the date it took place, the course or event it was part of, and the institution it took place at.
For transcripts or recordings of lectures/speeches, other details like the URL, the name of the book or website , and the length of the recording may be included instead of information about the event and institution.
The main elements included in a YouTube video citation across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the name of the author/uploader, the title of the video, the publication date, and the URL.
The format in which this information appears is different for each style.
All styles also recommend using timestamps as a locator in the in-text citation or Chicago footnote .
Each annotation in an annotated bibliography is usually between 50 and 200 words long. Longer annotations may be divided into paragraphs .
The content of the annotation varies according to your assignment. An annotation can be descriptive, meaning it just describes the source objectively; evaluative, meaning it assesses its usefulness; or reflective, meaning it explains how the source will be used in your own research .
Any credible sources on your topic can be included in an annotated bibliography . The exact sources you cover will vary depending on the assignment, but you should usually focus on collecting journal articles and scholarly books . When in doubt, utilize the CRAAP test !
An annotated bibliography is an assignment where you collect sources on a specific topic and write an annotation for each source. An annotation is a short text that describes and sometimes evaluates the source.
The elements included in journal article citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the name(s) of the author(s), the title of the article, the year of publication, the name of the journal, the volume and issue numbers, the page range of the article, and, when accessed online, the DOI or URL.
In MLA and Chicago style, you also include the specific month or season of publication alongside the year, when this information is available.
In APA , MLA , and Chicago style citations for sources that don’t list a specific author (e.g. many websites ), you can usually list the organization responsible for the source as the author.
If the organization is the same as the website or publisher, you shouldn’t repeat it twice in your reference:
- In APA and Chicago, omit the website or publisher name later in the reference.
- In MLA, omit the author element at the start of the reference, and cite the source title instead.
If there’s no appropriate organization to list as author, you will usually have to begin the citation and reference entry with the title of the source instead.
The main elements included in website citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the author, the date of publication, the page title, the website name, and the URL. The information is presented differently in each style.
When you want to cite a specific passage in a source without page numbers (e.g. an e-book or website ), all the main citation styles recommend using an alternate locator in your in-text citation . You might use a heading or chapter number, e.g. (Smith, 2016, ch. 1)
In APA Style , you can count the paragraph numbers in a text to identify a location by paragraph number. MLA and Chicago recommend that you only use paragraph numbers if they’re explicitly marked in the text.
For audiovisual sources (e.g. videos ), all styles recommend using a timestamp to show a specific point in the video when relevant.
The abbreviation “ et al. ” (Latin for “and others”) is used to shorten citations of sources with multiple authors.
“Et al.” is used in APA in-text citations of sources with 3+ authors, e.g. (Smith et al., 2019). It is not used in APA reference entries .
Use “et al.” for 3+ authors in MLA in-text citations and Works Cited entries.
Use “et al.” for 4+ authors in a Chicago in-text citation , and for 10+ authors in a Chicago bibliography entry.
Check if your university or course guidelines specify which citation style to use. If the choice is left up to you, consider which style is most commonly used in your field.
- APA Style is the most popular citation style, widely used in the social and behavioral sciences.
- MLA style is the second most popular, used mainly in the humanities.
- Chicago notes and bibliography style is also popular in the humanities, especially history.
- Chicago author-date style tends to be used in the sciences.
Other more specialized styles exist for certain fields, such as Bluebook and OSCOLA for law.
The most important thing is to choose one style and use it consistently throughout your text.
The main elements included in all book citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the author, the title, the year of publication, and the name of the publisher. A page number is also included in in-text citations to highlight the specific passage cited.
In Chicago style and in the 6th edition of APA Style , the location of the publisher is also included, e.g. London: Penguin.
A block quote is a long quote formatted as a separate “block” of text. Instead of using quotation marks , you place the quote on a new line, and indent the entire quote to mark it apart from your own words.
The rules for when to apply block quote formatting depend on the citation style:
- APA block quotes are 40 words or longer.
- MLA block quotes are more than 4 lines of prose or 3 lines of poetry.
- Chicago block quotes are longer than 100 words.
In academic writing , there are three main situations where quoting is the best choice:
- To analyze the author’s language (e.g., in a literary analysis essay )
- To give evidence from primary sources
- To accurately present a precise definition or argument
Don’t overuse quotes; your own voice should be dominant. If you just want to provide information from a source, it’s usually better to paraphrase or summarize .
Every time you quote a source , you must include a correctly formatted in-text citation . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style .
For example, a direct quote in APA is cited like this: “This is a quote” (Streefkerk, 2020, p. 5).
Every in-text citation should also correspond to a full reference at the end of your paper.
The DOI is usually clearly visible when you open a journal article on an academic database. It is often listed near the publication date, and includes “doi.org” or “DOI:”. If the database has a “cite this article” button, this should also produce a citation with the DOI included.
If you can’t find the DOI, you can search on Crossref using information like the author, the article title, and the journal name.
A DOI is a unique identifier for a digital document. DOIs are important in academic citation because they are more permanent than URLs, ensuring that your reader can reliably locate the source.
Journal articles and ebooks can often be found on multiple different websites and databases. The URL of the page where an article is hosted can be changed or removed over time, but a DOI is linked to the specific document and never changes.
When a book’s chapters are written by different authors, you should cite the specific chapter you are referring to.
When all the chapters are written by the same author (or group of authors), you should usually cite the entire book, but some styles include exceptions to this.
- In APA Style , single-author books should always be cited as a whole, even if you only quote or paraphrase from one chapter.
- In MLA Style , if a single-author book is a collection of stand-alone works (e.g. short stories ), you should cite the individual work.
- In Chicago Style , you may choose to cite a single chapter of a single-author book if you feel it is more appropriate than citing the whole book.
Articles in newspapers and magazines can be primary or secondary depending on the focus of your research.
In historical studies, old articles are used as primary sources that give direct evidence about the time period. In social and communication studies, articles are used as primary sources to analyze language and social relations (for example, by conducting content analysis or discourse analysis ).
If you are not analyzing the article itself, but only using it for background information or facts about your topic, then the article is a secondary source.
A fictional movie is usually a primary source. A documentary can be either primary or secondary depending on the context.
If you are directly analyzing some aspect of the movie itself – for example, the cinematography, narrative techniques, or social context – the movie is a primary source.
If you use the movie for background information or analysis about your topic – for example, to learn about a historical event or a scientific discovery – the movie is a secondary source.
Whether it’s primary or secondary, always properly cite the movie in the citation style you are using. Learn how to create an MLA movie citation or an APA movie citation .
To determine if a source is primary or secondary, ask yourself:
- Was the source created by someone directly involved in the events you’re studying (primary), or by another researcher (secondary)?
- Does the source provide original information (primary), or does it summarize information from other sources (secondary)?
- Are you directly analyzing the source itself (primary), or only using it for background information (secondary)?
Some types of source are nearly always primary: works of art and literature, raw statistical data, official documents and records, and personal communications (e.g. letters, interviews ). If you use one of these in your research, it is probably a primary source.
Primary sources are often considered the most credible in terms of providing evidence for your argument, as they give you direct evidence of what you are researching. However, it’s up to you to ensure the information they provide is reliable and accurate.
Always make sure to properly cite your sources to avoid plagiarism .
Common examples of secondary sources include academic books, journal articles , reviews, essays , and textbooks.
Anything that summarizes, evaluates or interprets primary sources can be a secondary source. If a source gives you an overview of background information or presents another researcher’s ideas on your topic, it is probably a secondary source.
Common examples of primary sources include interview transcripts , photographs, novels, paintings, films, historical documents, and official statistics.
Anything you directly analyze or use as first-hand evidence can be a primary source, including qualitative or quantitative data that you collected yourself.
The Scribbr Citation Generator is developed using the open-source Citation Style Language (CSL) project and Frank Bennett’s citeproc-js . It’s the same technology used by dozens of other popular citation tools, including Mendeley and Zotero.
You can find all the citation styles and locales used in the Scribbr Citation Generator in our publicly accessible repository on Github .
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What this handout is about
Used effectively, quotations can provide important pieces of evidence and lend fresh voices and perspectives to your narrative. Used ineffectively, however, quotations can clutter your text and interrupt the flow of your argument. This handout will help you decide when and how to quote like a pro.
When should I quote?
Use quotations at strategically selected moments. You have probably been told by teachers to provide as much evidence as possible in support of your thesis. But packing your paper with quotations will not necessarily strengthen your argument. The majority of your paper should still be your original ideas in your own words (after all, it’s your paper). And quotations are only one type of evidence: well-balanced papers may also make use of paraphrases, data, and statistics. The types of evidence you use will depend in part on the conventions of the discipline or audience for which you are writing. For example, papers analyzing literature may rely heavily on direct quotations of the text, while papers in the social sciences may have more paraphrasing, data, and statistics than quotations.
Discussing specific arguments or ideas
Sometimes, in order to have a clear, accurate discussion of the ideas of others, you need to quote those ideas word for word. Suppose you want to challenge the following statement made by John Doe, a well-known historian:
“At the beginning of World War Two, almost all Americans assumed the war would end quickly.”
If it is especially important that you formulate a counterargument to this claim, then you might wish to quote the part of the statement that you find questionable and establish a dialogue between yourself and John Doe:
Historian John Doe has argued that in 1941 “almost all Americans assumed the war would end quickly” (Doe 223). Yet during the first six months of U.S. involvement, the wives and mothers of soldiers often noted in their diaries their fear that the war would drag on for years.
Giving added emphasis to a particularly authoritative source on your topic.
There will be times when you want to highlight the words of a particularly important and authoritative source on your topic. For example, suppose you were writing an essay about the differences between the lives of male and female slaves in the U.S. South. One of your most provocative sources is a narrative written by a former slave, Harriet Jacobs. It would then be appropriate to quote some of Jacobs’s words:
Harriet Jacobs, a former slave from North Carolina, published an autobiographical slave narrative in 1861. She exposed the hardships of both male and female slaves but ultimately concluded that “slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women.”
In this particular example, Jacobs is providing a crucial first-hand perspective on slavery. Thus, her words deserve more exposure than a paraphrase could provide.
Jacobs is quoted in Harriet A. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, ed. Jean Fagan Yellin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987).
Analyzing how others use language.
This scenario is probably most common in literature and linguistics courses, but you might also find yourself writing about the use of language in history and social science classes. If the use of language is your primary topic, then you will obviously need to quote users of that language.
Examples of topics that might require the frequent use of quotations include:
Southern colloquial expressions in William Faulkner’s Light in August
Ms. and the creation of a language of female empowerment
A comparison of three British poets and their use of rhyme
Spicing up your prose.
In order to lend variety to your prose, you may wish to quote a source with particularly vivid language. All quotations, however, must closely relate to your topic and arguments. Do not insert a quotation solely for its literary merits.
One example of a quotation that adds flair:
President Calvin Coolidge’s tendency to fall asleep became legendary. As H. L. Mencken commented in the American Mercury in 1933, “Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored.”
How do I set up and follow up a quotation?
Once you’ve carefully selected the quotations that you want to use, your next job is to weave those quotations into your text. The words that precede and follow a quotation are just as important as the quotation itself. You can think of each quote as the filling in a sandwich: it may be tasty on its own, but it’s messy to eat without some bread on either side of it. Your words can serve as the “bread” that helps readers digest each quote easily. Below are four guidelines for setting up and following up quotations.
In illustrating these four steps, we’ll use as our example, Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quotation, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
1. Provide context for each quotation.
Do not rely on quotations to tell your story for you. It is your responsibility to provide your reader with context for the quotation. The context should set the basic scene for when, possibly where, and under what circumstances the quotation was spoken or written. So, in providing context for our above example, you might write:
When Franklin Roosevelt gave his inaugural speech on March 4, 1933, he addressed a nation weakened and demoralized by economic depression.
2. Attribute each quotation to its source.
Tell your reader who is speaking. Here is a good test: try reading your text aloud. Could your reader determine without looking at your paper where your quotations begin? If not, you need to attribute the quote more noticeably.
Avoid getting into the “he/she said” attribution rut! There are many other ways to attribute quotes besides this construction. Here are a few alternative verbs, usually followed by “that”:
Different reporting verbs are preferred by different disciplines, so pay special attention to these in your disciplinary reading. If you’re unfamiliar with the meanings of any of these words or others you find in your reading, consult a dictionary before using them.
3. Explain the significance of the quotation.
Once you’ve inserted your quotation, along with its context and attribution, don’t stop! Your reader still needs your assessment of why the quotation holds significance for your paper. Using our Roosevelt example, if you were writing a paper on the first one-hundred days of FDR’s administration, you might follow the quotation by linking it to that topic:
With that message of hope and confidence, the new president set the stage for his next one-hundred days in office and helped restore the faith of the American people in their government.
4. Provide a citation for the quotation.
All quotations, just like all paraphrases, require a formal citation. For more details about particular citation formats, see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . In general, you should remember one rule of thumb: Place the parenthetical reference or footnote/endnote number after—not within—the closed quotation mark.
Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt, Public Papers, 11).
Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”1
How do I embed a quotation into a sentence?
In general, avoid leaving quotes as sentences unto themselves. Even if you have provided some context for the quote, a quote standing alone can disrupt your flow. Take a look at this example:
Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).
Standing by itself, the quote’s connection to the preceding sentence is unclear. There are several ways to incorporate a quote more smoothly:
Lead into the quote with a colon.
Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression: “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).
The colon announces that a quote will follow to provide evidence for the sentence’s claim.
Introduce or conclude the quote by attributing it to the speaker. If your attribution precedes the quote, you will need to use a comma after the verb.
Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. He states, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).
When faced with a twelve-foot mountain troll, Ron gathers his courage, shouting, “Wingardium Leviosa!” (Rowling, p. 176).
The Pirate King sees an element of regality in their impoverished and dishonest life. “It is, it is a glorious thing/To be a pirate king,” he declares (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).
Interrupt the quote with an attribution to the speaker. Again, you will need to use a comma after the verb, as well as a comma leading into the attribution.
“There is nothing either good or bad,” Hamlet argues, “but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet 2.2).
“And death shall be no more,” Donne writes, “Death thou shalt die” (“Death, Be Not Proud,” l. 14).
Dividing the quote may highlight a particular nuance of the quote’s meaning. In the first example, the division calls attention to the two parts of Hamlet’s claim. The first phrase states that nothing is inherently good or bad; the second phrase suggests that our perspective causes things to become good or bad. In the second example, the isolation of “Death thou shalt die” at the end of the sentence draws a reader’s attention to that phrase in particular. As you decide whether or not you want to break up a quote, you should consider the shift in emphasis that the division might create.
Use the words of the quote grammatically within your own sentence.
When Hamlet tells Rosencrantz that he “could be bounded in a nutshell and count [him]self a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2), he implies that thwarted ambition did not cause his depression.
Ultimately, death holds no power over Donne since in the afterlife, “death shall be no more” (“Death, Be Not Proud,” l. 14).
Note that when you use “that” after the verb that introduces the quote, you no longer need a comma.
The Pirate King argues that “it is, it is a glorious thing/to be a pirate king” (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).
How much should I quote?
As few words as possible. Remember, your paper should primarily contain your own words, so quote only the most pithy and memorable parts of sources. Here are guidelines for selecting quoted material judiciously:
Sometimes, you should quote short fragments, rather than whole sentences. Suppose you interviewed Jane Doe about her reaction to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. She commented:
“I couldn’t believe it. It was just unreal and so sad. It was just unbelievable. I had never experienced such denial. I don’t know why I felt so strongly. Perhaps it was because JFK was more to me than a president. He represented the hopes of young people everywhere.”
You could quote all of Jane’s comments, but her first three sentences are fairly redundant. You might instead want to quote Jane when she arrives at the ultimate reason for her strong emotions:
Jane Doe grappled with grief and disbelief. She had viewed JFK, not just as a national figurehead, but as someone who “represented the hopes of young people everywhere.”
Excerpt those fragments carefully!
Quoting the words of others carries a big responsibility. Misquoting misrepresents the ideas of others. Here’s a classic example of a misquote:
John Adams has often been quoted as having said: “This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.”
John Adams did, in fact, write the above words. But if you see those words in context, the meaning changes entirely. Here’s the rest of the quotation:
Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!!’ But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in public company—I mean hell.
As you can see from this example, context matters!
This example is from Paul F. Boller, Jr. and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions (Oxford University Press, 1989).
Use block quotations sparingly.
There may be times when you need to quote long passages. However, you should use block quotations only when you fear that omitting any words will destroy the integrity of the passage. If that passage exceeds four lines (some sources say five), then set it off as a block quotation.
Be sure you are handling block quotes correctly in papers for different academic disciplines–check the index of the citation style guide you are using. Here are a few general tips for setting off your block quotations:
- Set up a block quotation with your own words followed by a colon.
- Indent. You normally indent 4-5 spaces for the start of a paragraph. When setting up a block quotation, indent the entire paragraph once from the left-hand margin.
- Single space or double space within the block quotation, depending on the style guidelines of your discipline (MLA, CSE, APA, Chicago, etc.).
- Do not use quotation marks at the beginning or end of the block quote—the indentation is what indicates that it’s a quote.
- Place parenthetical citation according to your style guide (usually after the period following the last sentence of the quote).
- Follow up a block quotation with your own words.
So, using the above example from John Adams, here’s how you might include a block quotation:
After reading several doctrinally rigid tracts, John Adams recalled the zealous ranting of his former teacher, Joseph Cleverly, and minister, Lemuel Bryant. He expressed his ambivalence toward religion in an 1817 letter to Thomas Jefferson:
Adams clearly appreciated religion, even if he often questioned its promotion.
How do I combine quotation marks with other punctuation marks?
It can be confusing when you start combining quotation marks with other punctuation marks. You should consult a style manual for complicated situations, but the following two rules apply to most cases:
Keep periods and commas within quotation marks.
So, for example:
According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries.”
In the above example, both the comma and period were enclosed in the quotation marks. The main exception to this rule involves the use of internal citations, which always precede the last period of the sentence. For example:
According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries” (Poe 167).
Note, however, that the period remains inside the quotation marks when your citation style involves superscript footnotes or endnotes. For example:
According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries.” 2
Place all other punctuation marks (colons, semicolons, exclamation marks, question marks) outside the quotation marks, except when they were part of the original quotation.
Take a look at the following examples:
I couldn’t believe it when my friend passed me a note in the cafe saying the management “started charging $15 per hour for parking”!
The coach yelled, “Run!”
In the first example, the author placed the exclamation point outside the quotation mark because she added it herself to emphasize the outrageous nature of the parking price change. The original note had not included an exclamation mark. In the second example, the exclamation mark remains within the quotation mark because it is indicating the excited tone in which the coach yelled the command. Thus, the exclamation mark is considered to be part of the original quotation.
How do I indicate quotations within quotations?
If you are quoting a passage that contains a quotation, then you use single quotation marks for the internal quotation. Quite rarely, you quote a passage that has a quotation within a quotation. In that rare instance, you would use double quotation marks for the second internal quotation.
Here’s an example of a quotation within a quotation:
In “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Hans Christian Andersen wrote, “‘But the Emperor has nothing on at all!’ cried a little child.”
Remember to consult your style guide to determine how to properly cite a quote within a quote.
When do I use those three dots ( . . . )?
Whenever you want to leave out material from within a quotation, you need to use an ellipsis, which is a series of three periods, each of which should be preceded and followed by a space. So, an ellipsis in this sentence would look like . . . this. There are a few rules to follow when using ellipses:
Be sure that you don’t fundamentally change the meaning of the quotation by omitting material.
Take a look at the following example:
“The Writing Center is located on the UNC campus and serves the entire UNC community.”
“The Writing Center . . . serves the entire UNC community.”
The reader’s understanding of the Writing Center’s mission to serve the UNC community is not affected by omitting the information about its location.
Do not use ellipses at the beginning or ending of quotations, unless it’s important for the reader to know that the quotation was truncated.
For example, using the above example, you would NOT need an ellipsis in either of these situations:
“The Writing Center is located on the UNC campus . . .”
The Writing Center ” . . . serves the entire UNC community.”
Use punctuation marks in combination with ellipses when removing material from the end of sentences or clauses.
For example, if you take material from the end of a sentence, keep the period in as usual.
“The boys ran to school, forgetting their lunches and books. Even though they were out of breath, they made it on time.”
“The boys ran to school. . . . Even though they were out of breath, they made it on time.”
Likewise, if you excerpt material at the end of clause that ends in a comma, retain the comma.
“The red car came to a screeching halt that was heard by nearby pedestrians, but no one was hurt.”
“The red car came to a screeching halt . . . , but no one was hurt.”
Is it ever okay to insert my own words or change words in a quotation?
Sometimes it is necessary for clarity and flow to alter a word or words within a quotation. You should make such changes rarely. In order to alert your reader to the changes you’ve made, you should always bracket the altered words. Here are a few examples of situations when you might need brackets:
Changing verb tense or pronouns in order to be consistent with the rest of the sentence.
Suppose you were quoting a woman who, when asked about her experiences immigrating to the United States, commented “nobody understood me.” You might write:
Esther Hansen felt that when she came to the United States “nobody understood [her].”
In the above example, you’ve changed “me” to “her” in order to keep the entire passage in third person. However, you could avoid the need for this change by simply rephrasing:
“Nobody understood me,” recalled Danish immigrant Esther Hansen.
Including supplemental information that your reader needs in order to understand the quotation.
For example, if you were quoting someone’s nickname, you might want to let your reader know the full name of that person in brackets.
“The principal of the school told Billy [William Smith] that his contract would be terminated.”
Similarly, if a quotation referenced an event with which the reader might be unfamiliar, you could identify that event in brackets.
“We completely revised our political strategies after the strike [of 1934].”
Indicating the use of nonstandard grammar or spelling.
In rare situations, you may quote from a text that has nonstandard grammar, spelling, or word choice. In such cases, you may want to insert [sic], which means “thus” or “so” in Latin. Using [sic] alerts your reader to the fact that this nonstandard language is not the result of a typo on your part. Always italicize “sic” and enclose it in brackets. There is no need to put a period at the end. Here’s an example of when you might use [sic]:
Twelve-year-old Betsy Smith wrote in her diary, “Father is afraid that he will be guilty of beach [sic] of contract.”
Here [sic] indicates that the original author wrote “beach of contract,” not breach of contract, which is the accepted terminology.
Do not overuse brackets!
For example, it is not necessary to bracket capitalization changes that you make at the beginning of sentences. For example, suppose you were going to use part of this quotation:
“The colors scintillated curiously over a hard carapace, and the beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello.”
If you wanted to begin a sentence with an excerpt from the middle of this quotation, there would be no need to bracket your capitalization changes.
“The beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello,” said Dr. Grace Farley, remembering a defining moment on her journey to becoming an entomologist.
Not: “[T]he beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello,” said Dr. Grace Farley, remembering a defining moment on her journey to becoming an entomologist.
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. 2012. The Modern Researcher , 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Gibaldi, Joseph. 2009. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 7th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.
Turabian, Kate. 2018. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, Dissertations , 9th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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