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Quotations in Your Essays

Don't Just Include Them! Blend Them in!

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An essay can seem quite jarring if the quotation does not blend in. The quotation should naturally fit into your essay. No one is interested in reading quotation-stuffed essays.

Here are some good tips on blending in your quotations:

  • You can begin your essay with a quotation that sets off the basic idea of the essay. This can have a lasting impact on your reader. In the introductory paragraph of your essay, you can comment on the quotation if you like. In any case, do ensure that the relevance of the quotation is communicated well.

  • Your choice of phrases and adjectives can significantly boost the impact of the quotation in your essay. Do not go with monotonous phrases like:

    "George Washington once said..."

    If your essay merits the use of powerful speech, consider using emphatic expressions like:

    "George Washington rocked the nation by saying ..."

Long Quotations
It is usually better to have short and crisp quotations in your essay. However, if you are convinced that a particular long quotation is more effective, make sure that you follow the necessary rules.

When is it Appropriate to use Long Quotations in Your Essay?
It is your judgment call. Let me explain. Long quotations must be used sparingly as they tend to weigh down the reader. However, there are times when your essay has more impact with a longer quotation. If you have decided to use a long quotation, consider paraphrasing, as it usually works better. But, there is a flip side to paraphrasing too. Instead of the paraphrase, if you use a direct quotation, you will avoid misrepresentation. As you can see, the decision of using a long quotation is not trivial. Once again, it is your judgment call.

Punctuating Long Quotes
Long quotations should be set off as block quotations. Formatting block quotations should be as per the guidelines that you might have been provided. If there are no specific guidelines, you can follow the usual standard - if a quotation is more than three lines long, you block it. Blocking implies indenting it about half an inch on the left.

Often, setting up a long quotation is warranted. Writing a brief introduction displays your understanding of the subject. In other cases, you might need to provide a complete analysis of the quotation. In this case, it is best to state the quotation and follow it with the analysis, rather than the other way around.

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