2001: A QUOTATION ODYSSEY NEC FACET Center
Learning to use quotations can seem like a voyage into uncharted territory…
You may find yourself lost in space, asking: • How can I know when to use quotation marks? • How do I punctuate quotations? • How can I integrate quotations smoothly into my work? • How can I tell when to use single or double quotes? And does it really even matter?
Quotation marks are important because they separate someone else’s words from your own or set off a word or phrase from the rest of your ideas for another purpose, such as indication of sarcasm, a title, or unusual usage.
They offset information from the rest of your text: HAL said, “Good morning, Dave.” They called him “The Trekkie King.” When Bowie sang “Space Oddity,” it brought a tear to my eye.
Use double quotation marks to offset direct quotations. “I am completely operational, and all my circuits are functioning perfectly,” HAL said.
Exception: Do not use quotation marks with a long direct quotation that is set apart from your text.
Example In Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, The Flaming Lips offer a brief description of the only person who can beat the “evil-natured robots” who are “programmed to destroy us”: Her name is Yoshimi She’s a black belt in karate Working for the city She has to discipline her body They later mention the importance of Yoshimi’s “taking lots of vitamins,” further emphasizing her dedication to fighting “evil robots.”
Do not use quotations when giving indirect quotes. Indirect quotes are information from a source which is not made up from a speaker’s exact words. Example: Sulu told the rest of the Enterprise crew that he’d seen Spock wearing pink slippers.
Use BOTH double AND single quotation marks for quotations within quotations to show who is saying what: Jim James claimed, “What Madonna said really helped. She said, ‘You’d better learn to express yourself.’”
Use double quotation marks for titles of short works. • “The Trouble with Tribbles” is my favorite episode of Star Trek. • “Breath,” from Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon, is one of their most commonly covered songs. • “Robots Invade the Shopping Mall” is quite possibly the most riveting short story of 2008.
Place end punctuation inside the last quotation mark. • “Whose shoes smell like old cheese?” asked Red. • “They aren’t mine!” replied Bob. • “I think they’re Fez’s,” Eric piped in.
EXCEPTION--if a question mark, exclamation point, colon or semicolon relates to the sentence rather than the quote, place it outside the quotation marks.
Examples: • How many chickens could Harold make over each day in his newly-invented “Poultry Spa Machine”? • I can’t wait to read the new Granola Today article “Building Houses from Recycled Shoes”! • Bowie gives several steps to takeoff in Major Tom’s “Space Oddity”: taking “protein pills,” putting his “helmet on,” and “commencing countdown” are among them.
Use a comma to introduce a quote after a brief introductory clause. And then my neighbor told me, “You will never build a working spaceship in your garage!”
Use a colon to introduce a quotation after an independent clause. Dr. McDonald explains some benefits of newfound linguistic interest in the varying speech patterns of Martian cultures: “Every Martian and Earthling will be the beneficiary of Martian language studies as they broaden our understanding of Martian cultures.”
Double quotation marks can also be used to impart irony or euphemism. • When I get home from work, I like to enjoy an “adult beverage.” (euphemism for beer) • My neighbors believe in their “right” to sunbathe shirtless on the roof. (indicates the word “right” is being used ironically)
Do not use quotation marks to add emphasis. • “fresh” fruit—how tempting! • Buy one, get one “free”—so what’s the catch?
Use brackets to explain or clarify a quote with your own words. • This shows that the bracketed material is yours and does not belong to the original quotation. • Example: “The space station on Utopia Planitia [located on Mars] is the home of a Starfleet fleet yard,” Colonel Trekster explained in his famous discussion of Starfleet history.
Use brackets also to indicate alterations you have made in a quote’s capitalization. • “[O]ne of the best Trek parties in the universe” is how the man in the Vulcan costume described his annual Salute to Spock Gala. • The original quote: “Many Trekkies agree that Salute to Spock is one of the best Trek parties in the universe.”
Use ellipsis to remove portions of a quote. Occasionally, you may want to remove irrelevant information from quotations, but you must use ellipsis to indicate you have done so. Example: My favorite lines of the theme song are: “Aliens in parkas, space bugs in tutus. We’re in search of the extraordinaire…. The trip will be long, but if we come across robots in snow boots we’ll be happy travelers.” A portion of the theme song has been omitted because it does not pertain to my favorite lines.
Use the ellipsis mark to show you have omitted information from a quotation. • Omit information from the middle of a sentence: “If you could make everybody poor…would you do it?” The Flaming Lips song asks. • Omit information from the end of a sentence (without source citation): “It’s a very dangerous thing to do exactly what you want….” (Period closes off sentence)
Ellipsis, Continued • Omit information from the end of a sentence, with citation: The manual suggested that in case of alien invasion we should put “aluminum foil hats on our heads…” (Willy 5). • Omit parts of two or more sentences to combine them: “If you could watch everybody work….[i]f you could take all the love without giving any back would you do it?”
CAUTION When removing information from quotes, the meaning of the quote must remain the same! Distorted quote: The captain-in-training shouted, “Asteroids, we’re entering an asteroid field. Mac…scream like a little girl!” Original quote: The captain-in-training shouted, “Asteroids! We’re entering an asteroid field. Mac, Lucy, everyone, just stay calm. Please, there’s no need for anyone to scream like a little girl!” Was the captain-in-training really telling Mac to scream like a little girl?
Summary • A speaker’s exact words, titles of short works, and words with special meaning go inside quotation marks. • Place end quotation inside last quotation mark. • If end quotation relates to sentence rather than quotation, it goes outside of quotation marks. • Use a comma or colon to introduce a quotation.
Summary • Use brackets to insert a clarification or commentary in your own words. • Use ellipsis when removing irrelevant information from a quotation. • Make sure the material you remove or insert does not change the meaning of the quotation.