More on how to incorporate quotations into text

In my last blog, I discussed how to incorporate a simple direct quotation into a student text, using a hamburger visual.

Let’s try a more difficult quotation.

Suppose you are writing about hurricanes.   You are trying to explain how wind sheer prevents a hurricane from growing stronger.  You have found a good quote to explain what wind sheer does to a hurricane.

Start with your text in your own words:  “Wind sheer prevents a hurricane from growing stronger.”

Next (the top bun), you introduce who said the direct quote and why it is worth quoting:  “Adam Sobel, an atmospheric scientist and director of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate at Columbia University, explains wind sheer as. . .”

Now (the hamburger), you write the quote:  “different winds at different altitudes were keeping it from standing upright.”

Uh oh.  A problem—actually two problems.  Your text concerns hurricanes in general, but Sobel is describing Hurricane Henri in particular.  You need to remove the word “it” (meaning a particular hurricane) and replace it with the word “hurricanes” (meaning hurricanes in general.)  Since you are changing the quote slightly, you need to indicate that by putting your substitution in brackets.  The revised quote becomes, “different winds at different altitudes were keeping [hurricanes] from standing upright.”

But a second problem remains.  The past tense helping verb “were” refers to Hurricane Henri, but your text concerns hurricanes in general.  For proper grammar, you could change the verb “were keeping” into the gerund “keeping.”  The revised quote becomes “different winds at different altitudes. . .keeping [hurricanes] from standing upright.”  You need the ellipses because the helping verb is omitted.

Last (the bottom bun), you explain why you think this quote is relevant to your text in your own words.  “Sobel’s explanation creates a visual image of winds tilting a storm’s clouds, making them less organized than in an upright storm.”

Now put it all together:

Wind sheer prevents a hurricane from growing stronger.  As Adam Sobel, an atmospheric scientist and director of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate at Columbia University, explains, wind sheer is “different winds at different altitudes. . .keeping [hurricanes] from standing upright.”  Sobel’s explanation creates a visual image of winds tilting a storm’s clouds, making them less organized than in an upright storm.

To recap:

  • To use a direct quotation, you must put it in context by identifying who made the direct quote and why it is relevant in the context you are using it.
  • The transition from your introductory information to the quotation must use correct grammar.
  • Sometimes words of the direct quote must be left out or changed slightly (for example, from singular to plural, from one verb tense to another, from one pronoun to another).
  • Any change in the direct quote must be shown either with ellipses or with brackets.
  • If several changes must be made, paraphrasing might be a better alternative.

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