How to Integrate Direct Quotations into Your Writing

Small changes can yield effective results when it comes to integrating quotations into your writing. Adding or deleting a letter or an entire phrases of source material can help you build seamless transitions between your own ideas and those of experts you're quoting. If you're using MLA style, you'll need to indicate modifications to the source text by placing square brackets around any changes made. For example:

In Example 1, in order for the direct quotation to fit into the writer's sentence, the capitalized letter at the beginning of the quote and the pronoun at the end need to be changed. The square brackets around [r] and [them] indicate that these are the writer's modifications and do not appear in the original source text.

In Example 2, the writer has changed the verb tense by removing the "s" from "changes." Empty square brackets indicate this change from the original.

In some instances, you may need to abbreviate a direct quotation by cutting text between important parts of a passage. An ellipsis, three periods separated by a space [ . . . ] and set between brackets, communicates this change. (This is according to the MLA Style Guide; check your assigned style guide for other conventions.)

Paring down a long quotation is a complex editorial task, so review your changes to insure that you've retained the meaning of the original text. For example:

In Example 1, the writer omits only those parts of the quotation that are not crucial to the meaning of the text, thereby retaining the central point of the original sentence. In Example 2, the sentence makes sense, but has lost information that is crucial to the meaning of the original text.

Finally, and contrary to your best instincts, if you find a typographical or grammatical error in the original text from which you are quoting, don't correct the mistake; instead, reproduce the original and add (sic) after the error to indicate that the mistake is not yours. For example:

In cases where you need to modify a direct quotation so that it fits into your sentence, temper editorial license with the obligation to stay true to the meaning of the original quote, and, depending on your style guide, use brackets to alert readers to changes made to your source material.

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