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Quoting Smoothly

When you quote something, the quotation should become a part of your own sentence--without any seams. Here are some tips for quoting smoothly and correctly:

1. One strategy is to set up the quotation with a sentence of your own, ending that sentence with a colon, followed by the quotation.

George knows that Lennie did not intend to kill Curly's wife. He pleads with the other men not to seek revenge: "The poor bastard's nuts. Don't shoot 'im." (Steinbeck 1451).

2. You can also precede a quotation with a word like "explains," "illustrates," or "continues"--followed by a comma. ("Says" is ambiguous.)

In Frost's 'Mending Wall,' the neighbor asserts, "Good fences make good neighbors" (line 45).

3. You can make a quotation part of your own sentence.

George promises Lennie that they will "have a couple of acres and live off the fatta the land" (Steinbeck 1412).

4. You canít just throw a quotation into your sentence if it makes the grammar incorrect. For example, you should NOT write this:

Mrs. Macomber tells Wilson that she wants "to see you perform again" (Hemingway 1351).

Instead, you have at least 3 choices:

Mrs. Macomber tells Wilson, "I want so to see you perform again" (Hemingway 1351).

Mrs. Macomber tells Wilson that she wants "to see [him] perform again" (Hemingway 1351).

Mrs. Macomber tells Wilson how impressed she is with his hunting: "I want so to see you perform again" (Hemingway 1351).

5. To make the grammar correct, you will often need to change some parts of speech--like verb tenses or pronouns. Put brackets [ ] around anything you alter. More examples:

Frost's horseman admires the snowfall but presses on because he has "miles to go before [he] sleep[s]" (line 14).

(The text reads, "miles to go before I sleep.")

6. You can omit some words in a quotation by using ellipses. Again, BE SURE you do not change the meaning!

Edna symbolically rejects society's restrictions when she "cast[s] the unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and . . . [stands] naked in the open air" (Chopin 310).

(The text reads, ". . . she cast the unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and for the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air . . . ")

7. When you are quoting something that is in quotes in the text, use single quotation marks to indicate the original ones. Use double ones around your own quotation, as usual.

For Macomber, the buffalo hunt is a rebirth: "Macomber's face was shining. 'You know something did happen to me,' he said. 'I feel absolutely different'" (Hemingway 1365).


(All the citations above come from McMichael's Anthology of American Literature, 3rd edition.)


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