Historical Writing Project

Good and Bad Writing -- Exercises in Evaluating Writing Samples

Mechanics -- Using Quotations  

Never just drop a quotation into the middle of your text without explaining how it relates to your argument.  Try to never use a quotation longer than ten lines.  The first time you use a source give the source’s full name and credentials.

When using a quotation less than five lines, the writer needs to set the quotation off with a comma and enclose it in double quotations marks. 
            Roger Smith, a professor at Northern University, claims, “The North won the war because of its superior industrialization.”

When blending the quotation into the syntax of the sentence, no comma is needed.
            Roger Smith points out many factors were involved but that the “North won the war because of its superior industrialization.”

When giving the source in the middle of a quotation, set it off with commas.
            “The North won the war,” says Smith, “because of its superior industrialization.”

When giving the source at the end of the quotation, place the comma within the quotation marks.
            “The North won the war because of its superior industrialization,” says Smith.

When quoting a quotation within a quotation, set the inner quotation off with single quotation marks.
            Brutus claimed, “I did it because Julius had said to me, ‘You are a wimp,’ and I could not stand for that.”

When quoting more than four lines, use a block quotation.  Block quotations are single spaced and set off from the rest of the text by one line.  Do not use quotation marks, but indent the entire quotation.

When quoting an old source where spelling errors characterize the time period, do not correct the errors or use [sic].  If you do change the spelling or punctuation, use a note to let the reader know you have altered the text.

The first letter of a quotation can be changed to an upper or lower case letter without noting the change. Also final punctuation can be omitted.
            Original:  Because of the mounting unemployment, the Depression spiraled out of control.
            Rogers claims, “The Depression spiraled out of control.”
            Rogers stated that “the Depression spiraled out of control.”
            Rogers explains that the Depression grew “because of the mounting unemployment.”

 When you want to emphasize a part of a quotation, italicize the words you want the reader to notice.  Either within the quotation or in the citation add the notation emphasis added or italics mine within square brackets so the reader is aware you have altered the text.
            Rogers stated that “the Depression spiraled out of control [emphasis added].”

The writer may add to the quotation by using square brackets.  The addition should be no more than four words and should not change the meaning of the original quotation.
            As Rogers states, “The Depression [had] spiraled out of control.”

When omitting words from a quotation, do not change or misrepresent the meaning of the original text.  Use an ellipsis to show the omission and place the ellipsis within the quotation marks.  Most word processors arrange the spacing automatically.
            “He spoke of saving lives,…the good fight…and our reward.”