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How to quote in your essay

Quoting other writers in your work shows that you are engaging closely with the sources you are citing and can back up your ideas with evidence. Here are three ways to include direct quotes:

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1 Integrate the quote in your sentence

This way, you won’t lose the rhythm of your writing. Make sure that the quote flows well in your sentence:

In her guide Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss argues that if punctuation can be an art form, its expression lies not with commas and apostrophes, but colons and semicolons, which are like ‘thermals that benignly waft our sentences to new altitudes’.[1]

2 Quote a full sentence

Simply introduce the writer, followed by a colon or comma:

Cecilia Watson argues that punctuation is subject to fashions, citing the semicolon as an example: ‘In the late 1800s the semicolon was downright trendy, its frequency of use far outstripping that of one of its relatives, the colon.’[2]

3 Quote a longer excerpt

Only use quotes of more than 40 words occasionally, if you have a lot to say about them. Introduce the quote and indent it:

Punctuation marks are subject to trends and fashions like language itself. In her history of the semicolon, Cecilia Watson argues that we should not react emotionally to these social perceptions:

There is no need to hate semicolons without let, or love commas unequivocally: you can react passionately towards individual instances of their usage without having to swear allegiance to, or vendettas against, the marks themselves.[3]

Make sure you discuss the quote fully in the following paragraph.

Cherise Saywell
17 June 2021

[1] Truss, Lynne (2003) Eats, Shoots & Leaves. London: Profile Books, p. 106

[2] Watson, Cecilia (2019) Semicolon. London: 4th Estate, p. 2

[3] Watson, Cecilia (2019) Semicolon. London: 4th Estate, p. 156


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