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Using Quotations

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Prof. Gold

ENG 1101

City Tech

Fall 2008 

Using Quotations:  A Short Guide 

Key Points (Adapted From Rules of Thumb, pp. 79-80): 

  • Quote Opinions or Key Phrases -- Not Facts or Events

-- quote especially memorable or important phrases that capture key ideas of the original text

-- ex.  David Brooks suggests that people “mak[e] strenuous efforts to group themselves with people who are basically like themselves” (67). 

  • Keep the Quotations Secondary to Your Own Words and Ideas

-- This is especially important when writing an argumentative or analytic paper.  Keep the emphasis on your own ideas; use quotations from the text to provide examples and illustrations of those ideas. 

  • Don’t Use Too Many Quotations

-- Whenever possible, paraphrase.  Be wary of letting too many quotations overwhelm your own text. 

  • Keep Your Quotations Brief

-- Try not to quote whole sentences.  Instead, quote especially important phrases.  Use ellipses [. . . ] or paraphrasing to shorten quotations.

-- ex.   Brooks argues that the United States is, essentially, a “relatively homogenous nation” (68). 

  • Introduce Your Quotations

-- ALWAYS introduce your quotations.  NEVER begin a sentence with the quotation itself.  Make sure that your reader understands who is speaking.

-- ex.  WRONG:  “Have any of your twelve closest friends graduated from Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Caltech, MIT, Duke, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, Chicago, or Brown?” (69).

           RIGHT:  Brooks questions how many of his readers’s “closest friends” have “graduated from Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Caltech, MIT, Duke, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, Chicago, or Brown.” (69). 

  • Use Block Formatting for Long Quotations

-- When quotations are more than a few lines long (something that should be rare), use block formatting.  Introduce the quotation with a sentence that ends with a colon.  Then, indent the quotation half an inch from the left margin.  Here is an example: 

Brooks suggests that wanting to be around others “like ourselves” is not necessarily a bad thing: 

What we are looking at here is human nature.  People want to be around others who are roughly like themselves.  That’s called community.  It probably would be psychologically difficult for most Brown professors to share an office with someone who was pro-life, a member of the National Rifle Association, or an evangelical Christian.  (70) 

Of course, we might question whether Brooks himself -- an avowed conservative -- would himself be comfortable sharing an office with a pro-life, gun-toting evangelical Christian -- even if someone whose friends all went to Yale and Harvard most likely does not have to share his corner office with anyone. 

  • Follow Each Quotation With an Explanation

-- See above.  Imagine that your reader has skipped the block quotation.  Why was it important?  How does it relate to your argument? 

  • Incorporate Each Quotation into a Clear Sentence

-- Quotations should fit seamlessly into your own sentences.  Imagine that the quotation marks aren’t there; does the sentence make sense?   

  • Punctuate Your Quotations Properly

-- As a general rule, punctuation goes inside the closing quotation mark.

ex.  Brooks believes that “it’s probably important for adults to get out of their own familiar circles.”

ex.  Jody said, “That was the worst essay I have ever read.” 

  • Make Sure That Your Quotations Are Accurate

-- Double check your quotations for accuracy!  Respect the text! 

  • Provide a Parenthetical Citation for Each Quotation That You Use

-- We will discuss MLA parenthetical citation in more depth later in the semester, but for now, you should cite the page number on which the quotation appears at the end of every sentence.  Your paper should end with a “Works Cited” page that lists Acting Out Culture.

ex.  Brooks believes that “it’s probably important for adults to get out of their own familiar circles” (71).


Works Cited 

Brooks, David.  “People Like Us.”  Acting Out Culture. Ed. James S. Miller.  New York:  Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 67-71.

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