How To Use A Quote In An Essay?

When used effectively, quotations can provide important evidence and bring new voices to your narrative. Ineffective use of quotations, however, can clutter your text and interrupt the flow of your argument. Learn when and how to quote like a pro with this article.

When should you quote?

Quotes should be used at strategic moments. Students have probably been told to provide as much evidence as possible in support of their thesis. However, many quotes do not necessarily strengthen your argument. You should still write most of your paper using your own words and your own ideas (it’s your paper, after all). 

A well-balanced paper may also use paraphrases, data, and statistics in addition to quotations. Depending on your discipline or audience, you may use different types of evidence. 

Literature papers often contain direct quotations of the text, whereas social science papers may contain more paraphrasing, data, and statistics than quotations.

You should also include some quotes to illustrate the main themes of the book when writing a book summary.

How to write a quote

You can use direct quotes in your writing as a way to expand on and support your ideas with solid, fact-based evidence. Additionally, you may use quotes to develop ideas for your topic idea or thesis statement or to support your argument. If you want your paper to look polished, and to eliminate any risk of being accused (or committing) plagiarism, you must know how to properly cite your quotes.

All literary styles require citations whenever you use words that are not your own. It doesn’t matter what style you use. Plagiarism occurs when you use a quote in your essay without properly crediting the original source. 

Oftentimes, at the grade school or even the high school level, this might be overlooked as an inexperienced oversight or a novice error. However, at a college level or above, this could lead to expulsion. Creating a reference page at the end of the essay is also required to incorporate a quote into your paper.

How to begin an essay with a quote

One of the most difficult aspects of writing an essay is writing the perfect introduction. While writing an introductory paragraph can take many forms, there will be times when a quotation makes sense at the beginning. Choosing an appropriate quote and incorporating it into your own outline is an effective way to begin writing your essay.

Start by avoiding overused quotes and clichés – you know, the ones that litter your Facebook newsfeed. You should not use the same quote that your reader has read time and time again – “Keep calm and…” anyone?

Use an unexpected or shocking comment.

  • Try to use a quote that you would not have expected that person to say (James Earl Jones and Ben Stiller have said enough!)
  • Use a well-known quote, but question it. Contradict what they said, show them that they are wrong, or analyze what they said to find greater meaning.

Make sure you understand the context of the quote; this will help you decide whether it belongs in your essay or not. You should also know who you are talking to.

  • What is the reader’s familiarity with the person you are quoting?
  • Could the quote be considered offensive anywhere?

You can engage the reader in your essay by using quotes, making them want to read more. Whatever quote you choose, make sure it contributes to your essay rather than distracting from it. If your quote has nothing to do with your topic, it will only serve as a distraction, and you could end up confusing your readers.

How to quote a quote

When you understand the basic principles, the rules for using quotation marks aren’t too complicated. But what do you do when you have a quote inside a quote? Keep reading to find out.

Quotations Within Quotations

What is the purpose of having a quotation within a quotation? There are many reasons. An example would be a character in a story quoting someone else.

  • “Let us explore the meaning of the quote ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’”said the teacher.

In the example above, quotation marks are used in the American style. Double quotation marks are used around the main quote. The quote within the quote, Try to treat others as you wish to be treated, is enclosed in single quotation marks. 

In the British style, the main quote uses single quotation marks, while the quote within the quote uses double quotation marks.) If your single and double quotation marks end up next to each other (either at the beginning or end of the quote), you don’t need to add a space between them.

How to cite a quote

You should cite a quote based on the citation style or method instructed to you. When you cite someone in your essay, you would cite their full name and the page number according to the MLA (Modern Language Association) citation style. APA style requires that you include the year of the quote – both in the body of the essay and in the reference page.

Following MLA style guidelines, a short quote is defined as anything that is less than four typed lines in length. If the quote you are including in your work meets that criteria, you must a.) use double quotation marks around it, b.) write out the author’s last name, and c.) include a page number.

Adding the author’s name before a quote or in parentheses after a quote is acceptable. The page number will appear at the end; nothing needs to be used to indicate that it is a page number.

Don’t just throw in the quote and hope that the readers will figure it out on their own. Briefly introduce the quote with a short paragraph. In place of putting their name in parentheses at the end, you can introduce the author in your introduction. The quote can also be introduced, cited, and then commentary added.

Citing long quotes: A long quotation is one that is longer than four typed lines according to the MLA standard. You should include these citations as a freestanding block of text in your writing without quotation marks. The quote can be introduced with a short line of text and a colon, indented, and double-spaced. You should end your quote with proper punctuation and add the author’s surname in parentheses, followed by the page number.

For multiple paragraph citations, block quotes must be used. Even if fewer than four lines are typed in each part of the paragraph, these are true. To transition between paragraphs, use ellipses at the end of a paragraph when indenting the first line.

Adding or removing words: If you need to add to or alter a quote to suit your essay’s context, or if you need to remove words that aren’t relevant to your argument, you should follow these steps:

  • For the reader to better understand the context of a quotation, include your own information in brackets
  • Eliminate parts of the quote that may no longer be relevant by using ellipses (…)
  • You must separate the names of each author with commas and the word ‘and’ if you want to cite a quote from more than one author.

Citing online quotes: Citing quotes found online is a little more difficult than citing quotes taken from publications or books, mainly because you won’t be able to find pertinent information like page numbers. As much information as possible should be included, like the name of the author, the year the writing was written, or the name of the source from which the quote was taken.

Quote examples

Example of a short quote

You can use short quotations to provide evidence, support an argument, or illustrate a point with the words of another writer. Considering that short quotations don’t exceed 40 words, you should use introductory phrases that set the context for the quoted material in the surrounding paragraph.

Here’s an example:

However, as one researcher says, “science can be seen as an ideal and altruistic activity conducted for the best of mankind, where knowledge is in itself a value” (Simonsen, 2012, p. 46).

Example of a long quote

In your essay, you should limit the number of long quotations. Moreover, you should only use the parts that you really need from the long quotation. If a passage has a middle section that is not relevant to the point you are making, drop that section and replace it with an ellipsis (…) to indicate that you have left that part out.

The most common way to set up long quotations is in blocks; these are called block quotations. When a passage takes up more than four typed lines, block quotations are used. APA, MLA, Chicago, or another style of the formatting has different indentation and spacing guidelines. Find out what guidelines your instructor wants you to follow.

A block quotation does not require quotation marks. Indentation itself serves as a visual cue to the reader that the text is a quote. Quotes are usually introduced with a full sentence that summarizes the main point of the quotation. In the example below, a colon follows this introductory sentence.

Walden author Henry David Thoreau argued that men who are overburdened with labor become dehumanized. For humans to fully mature, they need time to learn about their own shortcomings and address them:

He has not time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance–which his growth requires–who has so often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. (23)

Inspirational quotes

Modern society has become somewhat accustomed to inspirational quotes. We see them everywhere now: on social media, on posters, on billboards, and even in desk calendars that feature a new inspirational quote every day.

In your essays, there are many reasons why you should consider using inspirational quotes. Using the right quotes in your writing will not only support your argument, but it will also better convince the reader to adopt your point of view.

There are times when an inspirational quote might be exactly what your essay needs to tie everything together, depending on the context. A quote that closely relates to your thesis statement can be just what your conclusion needs to take it from okay to incredible if you’re writing an essay on a specific principle or concept.

Throughout history, inspirational quotes have inspired, motivated, encouraged, and provoked thought. Maybe you should even base your entire essay on an inspirational quote. 

For example, Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” 

As an essay topic outline, this could be about adult education, starting a business, or even being an ex-pat.

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