Some Pointers on Using Quotations


When you quote, do so carefully, checking your quotations to make sure they are exactly as they were in the source.  Put any addition to the quotation in brackets [thus]; if you delete, use ellipsis . . . three spaced dots (not ... but . . .).  If you end a sentence with ellipsis so that you need a period also, you will need four dots. . . .  Notice that when you use four you do not put a space before the first.  Ellipsis is necessary primarily to show that something is left out in the middle of a quotation.  Normally it should not be used at the beginning or end of a quotation as we expect something to come before and after the quotation.  Use ellipsis on either side of a quotation only to keep from misleading the reader.  If the reader would think you have quoted an entire sentence when you have not and the omission is significant, use ellipsis to inform your reader that the sentence is not complete.  Otherwise do not precede or follow a quotation with ellipsis.


A quotation should not be dumped into your paper as a free-standing entity—each quotation must be part of one of your sentences.  The most common way of introducing a quotation is with a tag, that is, a subject and a verb denoting the action of speaking or writing.  Among the possible verbs you may use in this position are says, notes, acknowledges, claims, exclaims, argues, maintains, questions, describes, theorizes, insists, adds, comments, believes, points out, notices, assumes, writes, posits, proposes, supposes, thinks, names, guesses, implies, concludes, ends.  Examples of tags would be Hawthorne notes, Melville believes, Thoreau maintains, etc. The tag is followed by a comma, and the quotation serves as direct object of the tag verb.  The quotation must be a complete sentence, either grammatically or functionally, and it begins with a capital letter. If your quotation does not begin with a capital letter in the original, you may change the case of the first letter by substituting the capital letter in brackets.


A quotation may also be introduced by a partial sentence, or by a complete sentence.  (Note that she says is a tag, but she says that is a partial sentence.) After a partial sentence, use whatever punctuation mark would be correct if there were no quotation marks.  (In many cases this means that there is no additional punctuation.) A complete sentence introducing a quotation is followed by a colon, and the quotation begins with a capital letter.  Here are some examples:


Ways to Insert an Outside Source


Tag:  Hawthorne's narrator adds, "On they went, in counterfeited pomp, in senseless uproar, in frenzied merriment, trampling all on an old man's heart."


Tag, with capital letter added:  Hawthorne's narrator concludes, "[T]hey went, in counterfeited pomp, in senseless uproar, in frenzied merriment, trampling all on an old man's heart."


Partial sentence:  The narrator says the throng moved on "in counterfeited pomp, in senseless uproar, in frenzied merriment, trampling all on an old man's heart."


Complete sentence:  The narrator condemns the crowd in a final summation of its behavior:  "On they went, in counterfeited pomp, in senseless uproar, in frenzied merriment, trampling all on an old man's heart."


The above quotation might also be put into your own words:


Summary—Hawthorne's narrator condemns the crowd tarring and feathering Major Molineux by saying it acted insanely in destroying the major.


Paraphrase—Hawthorne's narrator condemns the crowd as it continues down the street humiliating the major in false ceremony, unreasonable clamor, and insane fun.


When you quote poetry, you must show the line division.  Two lines of poetry are divided by a slash mark (with a space on either side):  "I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, / And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made."  You will need to keep the capitalization at the beginning of the second line.  Longer quotations  are indented one inch from the left margin, with each line of poetry beginning a new line. This indentation takes the place of quotation marks:


I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.


When the quotation is four or more lines of prose, it too is set off by indenting from the left hand margin.


Name the author in your tag and then follow each quotation with the page number of the source in parentheses.  When referring to a primary source in your textbook, you need not give a page number for summary of bits of the story.  You do need to give credit for both direct and indirect quotations of secondary sources by identifying the author and the page number.  If you quote more than one work by the same author, you must identify the work quoted, usually by an abbreviation or short title, either in the tag or in the parenthetical attribution.  After short quotations, the final period is placed after the parentheses; after long, indented quotations, the final period comes before the parenthetical attribution.  Additional examples are shown below.


Here is a brief passage from Henry David Thoreau's Walden:


A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener.  So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts.  We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty.  We loiter in winter while it is already spring.  In a pleasant spring morning all men's sins are forgiven.  (638)


Note that Thoreau does not appear in the parentheses at the end because the introduction tells us the passage is from Thoreau.  When the quotation is indented from the main text, the last period comes before the parentheses.  (Otherwise, the parenthetical attribution would seem to be part of the quotation.)


Summarizing the passage given above:  In order to summarize without plagiarizing, read a few lines, turn the book on its face, and put the ideas in your own words.  If you try to put the ideas in your own words while looking at the book, you will probably copy sentence structures at least.  Exchanging a few words for synonyms will leave you too close to your original.  Don't look at your source while you are putting it in your own words.  Here is an acceptable summary of the above passage:


Thoreau compares the difference a bit of rain or dew makes on grass to the difference thinking happy thoughts makes in our sense of well-being.  He says that because we grieve over our past wrongdoing we act as if it is winter when spring has come; we need to forgive ourselves the sins of the past and live in the present (638). 


Note that the page number is still given, as the idea comes from Thoreau.  His name is not in the parentheses because it is given at the beginning of the passage.  There are no quotation marks because Thoreau's idea is given but not his words.  When the quotation is not indented, the period comes after the parentheses.


If you do not name the author in introducing the quotation, then you must do so in the parenthetical attribution. Note that there is no comma between author and page number:


Here are some beautiful lines:  "Only that day dawns to which we are awake.  There is more day to dawn.  The sun is but a morning star" (Thoreau 648).


It is usually better style to name the author in the introduction to the quotation.