Writing with Sources: A Primer

Here are notes from Tuesday’s class, our workshop on writing with sources:

Quote only when absolutely necessary. Make sure, too, that a reader understands why the quotation is relevant, and don’t count on a quote to make a point for you

Identify the speaker or writer of the quotation. Usually precedes the quoted material. (“Showalter says, . . ). Also include who the person is (role, position, expertise, qualifications) to indicate the reliability of the source you are citing

When you introduce a quotation, consider using verbs other than “says”: “Argues,” “adds,” “contends,” “points out,” “admits,” “comments,” “insists.” Or, with just the right verb, consider the use of a transitional phrase: “In an apparent contradiction, Showalter goes on to argue. . . .

Distinguish between short and long quotations. Enclose short quotations (fewer than four lines of type) in quotation marks. Set off long quotations (more than four lines of type). On block quotes, do not use quotation marks. To set off a long quotation, begin a new line, indent from the left margin, and double space throughout. Note well that block quotations need adequate introduction and are most often immediately preceded by a full sentence ending in a colon

Embedded quotations (that is, a quotation embedded into a sentence of your own) must fit grammatically into the sentence of which it is a part. Also develop your repertoire of sites to embed quotations: epigraphs, at the beginning of paragraphs, as transitions, in the middle of paragraphs in a sequence of sentences, at the end of paragraphs

Quote accurately. Check your quotation for accuracy at least twice. If you intend to add or substitute a word in the quotation, enclose the words in square brackets. Indicate omissions of material with an ellipses (three periods, with a space between each period). If you omit words at the end of sentence, indicate the omission with three periods (an ellipses) and end punctuation (a period).

Use punctuation correctly. Commas and periods go inside quotation marks. Semicolons and colons go outside quotation marks. Question marks, exclamation points and dashes go inside if they are part of the quotation, outside if they are your own

Use single quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation. “Listening to the conversation following Bradley’s speech, I overheard an audience member say that she had ‘never encountered such a frank and honest politician.’ She went on to say, ‘I don’t know what to make of him. But I like him.’”

Enclose titles of short works in quotation marks. Longer works should be underlined or italicized.