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Quotations

Quote accurately

In quoted passages, reproduce the exact spelling, interior capitalisation, italics and punctuation of the original source. As you should have the original source directly in front of you when taking a quotation, there is absolutely no excuse for inaccuracy.

All quotations must be followed by a footnote/endnote or parenthetical notation. Make sure that you have kept sufficiently complete records to enable you to identify your sources. It is frustrating to discover at midnight, as you print a paper due at nine o’clock the next morning, that you did not jot down the details of a book that you have already returned to the library.

Short quotations

Short quotations (no more than about forty words or three lines of prose, or two lines of verse) should be enclosed within single quotation marks, and included within the body of the text. Quotations included within the main text in this way must make sense in the context of your own sentence; take care to integrate the quotation with the sense and flow of your own prose. This might involve altering the tense or the subject of the passage to suit the context of your sentence and such alterations should be placed in square bracket to denote editorial intervention (see interpolation below).

Long quotations

Long quotations (more than about forty words or three lines of prose, or verse quotations of more than two lines) should be separated from the main body of the text in the following ways:

  • Set the entire quotation five spaces or one tab-stop in from the left margin, but lines may be run over to the right margin as in the text of your paper.
  • Single-space this block of quoted material, but double-space before and after it.

Omit quotation marks at the beginning and end of the passage, since the typography indicates that you are quoting, but retain any quotation marks that occur within the quoted passage.

A long quotation should never be placed within the middle of a sentence of the main text. It is unreasonable to expect a reader to follow the sense of your sentence through the length of the quotation; the sentence will break in half before and after the quotation. Complete your introductory sentence grammatically, and then make your comments on the quotation afterwards.

Floating quotations

The relationship between an unattached, floating quotation and the text around it is often mystifying. In the case of short quotations, be sure to integrate each one within your own sentence. Long quotations should never be integrated within your own sentence; they should be introduced and commented upon as detailed above.

Verse quotations

If it is appropriate to include a verse quotation within the main text (i.e. if the quote is not more than two complete lines of verse), but the quotation includes a line division, this should be indicated with a spaced upright stroke ( l ) or diagonal slash ( /). For example: ‘Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea / But sad mortality o’ersways their power’ (Shakespeare, ‘Sonnet 65’, ll. 1-2).

Indentation

If a long quotation consists of two or more paragraphs one after the other, double-indent the first line of each paragraph; that is to say, the entire paragraph will be set in from the left margin – indent the first line of each paragraph quoted one more tab stop from the left hand margin. However, if your quotation consists of only one paragraph, or a part of a paragraph, there is no need to indent the first line.

Omission

Never omit material from a quotation if the omission changes the meaning or tone of the quotation. If you wish to omit a word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph from a quoted passage, you should be guided by two principles: (1) fairness to the author quoted (that is, don’t misrepresent their meaning by leaving out crucial words) and (2) the grammatical integrity of your own writing.

Indicate an omission within a quotation by inserting ellipses (three full stops with spaces before the first and after the third) in place of the omitted word(s). There is no need to use ellipses to indicate omission at the beginning or end of your quotation; because it is a quotation, and therefore extracted from a larger work, your reader will assume that you have omitted the text before and following the quoted passage.

Interpolation

If you substitute a word – a name for a pronoun, for example – or insert a comment in mid-quotation, enclose your change within square brackets: [ ]. Such bracketed insertions are often awkward, so use them sparingly.

Emphasis within quotations

If you wish to emphasise a word within a quotation that is not emphasised in the original source, you may do so by italicising or underlining it, but you must indicate explicitly that you have done so, in square brackets – [my italics] or [emphasis added] – immediately after the passage or phrase in question.

Introductory punctuation

Punctuation introducing a quotation belongs to your own sentence. If you have properly integrated a short quotation within your own sentence, and within the flow of that sentence no punctuation mark is required, do not use one just because the sentence contains a quotation. For example:

Hamlet states that he will put on “an antic disposition”.

This sentence does not require any internal punctuation, and so there is no need to insert any just because it contains a quotation. Inserting a comma before the quotation, thus:

Hamlet states that he will put on, “an antic disposition”.

is quite wrong.

When you quote dialogue, there is no need to preface each quotation with “he says” or a similar phrase: let a colon or comma perform this function for you.


 

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