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Quotations In English Essays For Students

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Using Short Quotations: One of the most useful skills you can develop is to learn how to embed short quotations within the body of your own text, weaving seamlessly between your argument and the material to which you are referring. The following example might serve as some sort of a model for this practice:

Venus and Adonis, published by Richard Field in 1593 and addressed to "the Right Honourable Henry Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton," begins by immediately invoking its own Ovidian context through an epigraph from the Amores: "Let base-conceited wits admire vile things, / Fair Phoebus lead me to Castilian springs" (Roe, 78). While hymning the classical Muses remains a conventional enough way to begin a poem, John Roe has suggested that one might well interpret Shakespeare's tag as a conscious "signalling [of] the rarefied eroticism that is to follow" (Roe, 78).

Editing Quotations: Sometimes it is necessary to emend or edit quotations. When this is the case, use square brackets to signal the changes you have made. The only exception to this rule is with ellipses. The following example should make things clearer:

According to William Bradford, "[Morton] employed some of [the Indians] to hunt and fowl for him . . . [But] when they saw the execution a piece would do, and the benefit that might come by the same, they became mad . . . . accounting their bows and arrows but baubles in comparison of them" (Bradford, 189).

In this extract the words replaced by those in square brackets are "he," "them" and "So as when." The writer has altered these terms in order to make the quote fit the context of her argument (where the identity of those represented by these pronouns is not certain) and to alter the sense so as to prevent the cuts signalled by her ellipses from making Bradford's prose incoherent. The ellipses let the reader know that some text has been omitted at this point. Use three dots (. . .) to signal a cut within a single sentence and four (. . . .) to signal that the cut runs over a period in the original text. If your ellipsis starts at the end of a complete sentence, use the following procedure: "The instructor's lecture on the Enlightenment was boring. . . . and I didn't understand what he meant by tabula rasa." In this example, the original sentence finished after "boring" and an edit was made after the period and before "and." The three dots signal that "and I didn't understand . . ." is part of the next full sentence after "boring."

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