Writing from Sources

Here are notes from Wednesday’s class, our second 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, . . .)

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). Do not use quotation marks. To set off a long quotation, begin a new line, indent ten spaces from the left margin, and double space throughout. Note well that long quotations need adequate introduction and are most often immediately preceded by a full sentence ending in a colon.

Don’t introduce a long quotation into the middle of one of your own sentences. Too often the reader will get lost as you transition from your own writing into a long quotation. It’s better to use a short introductory tag (as described above) and then follow the quotation with your own sentence.

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.

Quote accurately. Check your quotation for accuracy at least twice. If you intend to add or substitute a word in the quotation (to conform with 5), 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 title of short works in quotation marks. Longer works should be underlined or italicized.


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