Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Email Grammar and Style: Quoting Properly


Examples of proper quoting:

Samuel Johnson says, "Nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of general nature" (2394).

Samuel Johnson believes that only universal ideas please: "Nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of general nature" (2394).

Samuel Johnson believes that "Nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of general nature" (2394).

Give page numbers even if you paraphrase rather than quote directly:

Samuel Johnson believes that only the truest representations of universal human nature constitute great art (2394).

If you are giving page numbers (almost always the case in essays), you drop the final punctuation and place a period after the page number, as in all of the cases above. This rule is not true if you are quoting something without giving a page number, or if you are quoting something that contains inflectional punctuation marks (question marks, exclamation points):

She said, "Wow, what a dress!" (102).

She said, "Are you kidding?" (103).

Of course, your own inflectional punctuation does not go inside the quotation marks:

Why did she say, "I really like your dress" (102)?

If you do not quote all of the sentence, use an ellipsis (three periods with spaces between them) to indicate any omissions:

According to Johnson, strange associations of ideas "may delight . . . by . . . novelty . . . , but the pleasures of sudden wonder are soon exhausted . . ." (2394).

No ellipsis is used at the beginning of the quotation: the reader can tell that the sentence didn't begin with "may" because the "m" is not capitalized (and of course verbs need subjects!), but in the case of the other omissions, an ellipsis is needed to show that something has been left out.

Embedding Quotations

When quoting part of a sentence, or introducing a quotation, embed it properly in your own sentence. That is, make sure that the sentence is still grammatically correct.

CC For Samuel Johnson, only "just representations of general nature" constitute great art (2394).

XX According to Johnson, "the poet of nature, the poet [who] holds up to readers a faithful mirror of manners and of life" (2394).

CC According to Johnson, Shakespeare is "the poet of nature, the poet [who] holds up to readers a faithful mirror of manners and of life" (2394).

Add whatever you need or change the quotation to make the sentence grammatical; indicate all changes by using square brackets:

XX As John Locke put it, "For wit lying most in the assemblage of ideas, . . . wherein can be found any resemblance or congruity . . ." (2202).

CC As John Locke put it, "For wit [lies] most in the assemblage of ideas, . . . wherein can be found any resemblance or congruity . . ." (2202).

Add whatever you need to make clear the pronoun references in what you quote:

X Johnson thought that authors should "secure them from unjust prejudices, perverse opinions, and incongruous combinations of images" (2381).

We don't know who Johnson is referring to by "them"; technically, the "them" in the above sentence refers to "authors," which makes no sense. Correct it by inserting the missing information:

C Johnson thought that authors should "secure [youthful readers] from unjust prejudices, perverse opinions, and incongruous combinations of images" (2381).

Introducing and Explaining quotations:

Always introduce quotations so that your readers have some idea as to why you are quoting. Always explain what you quote: what in your view does the quoted passage say, and why is what it says important to you? Two examples:

Example 1. John Dashwood reveals his selfishness while thinking about how much money he would give to his stepmother and stepsisters: "[H]e finally resolved that it would be absolutely unnecessary, if not highly indecorous, to do more for the widow and children of his father than such kind of neighbourly acts as his own wife pointed out" (13). This suggests that John Dashwood is the kind of man who just needs any poor reason to excuse himself from any action that will not benefit him directly.

Example 2. Throughout the novel, John and Fanny Dashwood prove again and again how selfish they are. For example, later in the novel Miss Steele reveals that her sister Lucy is engaged to be married to Fanny's brother Edward Ferrars. Fanny "scolded like any fury and soon drove [Lucy] into a fainting fit. . . . Mrs. Dashwood declared that they should not stay a minute longer in the house. . . . Then she fell into hysterics again, and [John] was so frightened that he would send for Mr. Donavan" (207). This passage shows that Fanny Dashwood is only concerned with her reputation, as it would be very unfit for her brother to marry someone with no money. She has no concern for her brother's feelings, only for her own status.

About this Page