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Including Quotations in Writing

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to include direct quotations (the exact words of others) in your writing.

Quotations can be a powerful part of your writing—but only if they are used sparingly. Remember, your writing should contain mostly your words and ideas! Making your writing mostly your words will give you great credibility as a writer.

However, it is appropriate to use quotations in your writing, especially in research writing. Even in research writing, quotations should be used to support your ideas. Let’s review some guidelines for using quotations in your writing.

Provide Context and Introduce Quotations


Before you share a quotation, prepare you reader. First, share the idea that you want to support. Second, explain who you will be quoting and why their opinion is credible. Then, provide the quotation.

Let’s look at the following example:

Relationships between employees and their supervisors should be both professional and friendly. According to sociologist Jane Fredericks, “employees who see their superior as both a leader and a friend are happier at work.”

In the example above, the writer first provides his own idea about employee-supervisor relationships. Next, the writer introduces the quotation by explaining who said the quotation (Jane Fredericks) and why she is credible (she is a sociologist). Then, the writer provides the quotation.

Use Correct Verb Tense for Introducing Quotations

There are two rules about verb tense when introducing quotations.

First, when writing about a quotation from a book or a news, magazine, research, or internet article, use present tense.

See the example below:

Also, Dr. Fredericks explains, “When supervisors ignore the personal side of employees’ lives, it is harder for them to discover what brings each employee satisfaction in their jobs.”

In the example above, the writer is referring to a research article, so when he introduces the quotation, he uses present tense (explains).

Next, when you write about historical events, use past tense.

See the example below:

At his last speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”

In the example above, the writer refers to something that was said at a well-known past event, so the quotation is introduced with the past tense (said).

Use Descriptive Verbs when Introducing Quotations


When introducing quotations, avoid using the verb says/said all of the time. There are more descriptive verbs that can introduce a quotation. See the chart below for other words you can use to introduce a quotation.

Verbs for Introducing Quotations
States Reports Describes
Remarks Maintains Argues
Writes Adds Notes
Comments Explains Shows
Observes Clarifies Suggests

Remember to choose a verb that makes sense with what the quotation says. For example, you would not use the verb describes if the speaker of the quotation is arguing a strong point. In that case, the verb argues or maintains would be a better choice.

Provide Commentary after Quotations


After you provide a quotation, explain how the quotation supports your idea and/or add commentary about what the quotation expresses. Doing this will help your writing flow smoothly and make you seem credible as a writer.

Let’s look at a previous example, now with follow-up commentary:

Relationships between employees and their supervisors should be both professional and friendly. According to sociologist Jane Fredericks, “employees who see their superior as both a leader and a friend are happier at work.” This is why it is important for supervisors to make efforts to get to know the employees they manage.

In the example above, the writer adds his thoughts about the quotation by describing a way that supervisors and employees can have good relationships.

Apply the Ten Percent Rule in Research Writing


When you include quotations in your writing, remember that quotations should make up ten percent or less of the total words in your writing. In essays where you are required to include a lot of research, that can be difficult. Below are two ways to avoid too many quotations in your writing:

1. Have something to say.

One way to avoid using too many quotations in your writing is to have something original to say. When you are given a research writing assignment, get started right away—do not procrastinate. Study the instructions for the assignment and write out possible ideas for your essay. Determine your purpose and your audience.

Then, create a thesis statement, which is your opinion on the topic or the main message of the essay. List out reasons that support your thesis. Finally, do research to find data and examples that can support your reasons.

2. Paraphrase.

The second way to avoid using too many quotations in your writing is to paraphrase. Paraphrasing is explaining someone’s ideas in your own words and style. Paraphrasing allows you to share the ideas you find in your research, but without quoting.

Prepare to paraphrase by reading the passage that you want to use several times, cover it, and then write out the ideas of the writer without looking at the original passage. Your paraphrased version of the passage must be constructed differently and contain your own words and writing style.

The paraphrased passage should not look or sound like the original passage. If it does, you could be accused of plagiarism, which is the stealing of others’ ideas. Also, just as when you include a quotation, you must tell your reader whose ideas you are paraphrasing.

Let’s look at a previous example—the quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. Let’s see how the writer paraphrases the ideas instead of using the quote:

Passage with the quote:
At his last speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”

Passage with a paraphrase of the quote:
At his last speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that he wanted to live for a long time, but that he was not worried about that. He said he was more concerned about doing what God wanted him to do.

In the example above, the writer’s paraphrase expresses the same ideas as the original passage, but does not imitate the construction nor use similar words from the original passage.

Practice Problems

1. True or False: When using a quotation in your writing, it is not important to explain who said the quotation.
2. True or False: You will seem like a credible writer if you use many quotations in a research essay.
3. True or False: When introducing a quote from a magazine article, you should use the present tense.
4. True or False: It is important to comment about a quotation after you use it in your writing.
5. True or False: When paraphrasing, you should closely imitate the style and construction of the original quotation.
6. True or False: You should prepare your reader for a quotation by first sharing the idea that you want to support with the quotation.
7. True or False: When preparing to write a research essay, you should do all of your research first and then create your thesis statement.

Use the following passage to answer questions 8–10.

The Lord will ask you to do hard things. This is the Lord’s way. He asks us to do things that seem impossible or even unwise. He asks us to build ships that no one has ever built before and to go places that no one has ever gone before.

In the work that lies ahead, the Lord will call upon us to do exactly those kinds of things—hard things. We all will need much greater faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We will need more revelation. We will need increased spiritual power.

8. Which option best introduces a quote from the passage?

  1. Elder Kim B. Clark notes, “The Lord will ask you to do hard things.”
  2. “The Lord will ask you to do hard things.”
  3. Elder Kim B. Clark, Commissioner of Church Education, notes, “The Lord will ask you to do hard things.”

9. Which option is the best paraphrase of the second paragraph by Elder Clark?

  1. In the work that lies ahead, the Lord will ask us to do hard things. We will need stronger faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We will need a lot more revelation. We will need more spiritual power.
  2. If we want to be prepared to help the Lord accomplish difficult tasks, we must have stronger faith in the Savior. We must also seek inspiration and strengthen ourselves spiritually.

10. Choose the best verb to introduce the quote:
Elder Clark ____ that the Lord will “ask us to build ships that no one has ever built before and go places that no one has ever gone before.”

  1. states
  2. argues
  3. clarifies
  4. shows
(
Answer Key
x
Answers:
  1. False
  2. False
  3. True
  4. True
  5. False
  6. True
  7. False
  8. Elder Kim B. Clark, Commissioner of Church Education, notes, “The Lord will ask you to do hard things.”
  9. If we want to be prepared to help the Lord accomplish difficult tasks, we must have stronger faith in the Savior. We must also seek inspiration and strengthen ourselves spiritually.
  10. states
)

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