How to Properly Use Quotations in Essays
Crafting an essay is all about following the rules. You’ve got to come up with a coherent argument, which you will either prove or disprove over the course of the document. Every single essay must have an introductory paragraph and a conclusion, which essentially serve the same purpose. The other paragraphs, which must total at least three, will give you the space to discuss each point and weigh their veracity against your initial suppositions. The rules of spelling and grammar must be followed to the letter (pun intended), and there’s no excuse for mistakes.
You could be the most accomplished writer in your class or attempting an essay for the very first time, but all of the same rules apply. And one that you may not be quite as familiar with is the proper use of quotations. Here are a few points to keep in mind, to make sure you don’t drop a grade due to the mishandling of quotes.
Basically, a quotation is the way that you can cite a source outside of yourself, in that source’s specific words. Quotations within your essay show that your arguments are well researched, and back up the claims you make through the work of other experts or brilliant minds. They are crucial in the research essay, but are quite useful in any essay you could attempt. Yet any benefit you earn through the use of a well-timed quotation will be lost if you use them incorrectly.
The first thing to keep in mind is the punctuation you must utilize. Every quotation is surrounded by quotation marks, the set of apostrophes that come at the beginning and end of the quote. At the front end you’ve got the open quote, which will curve in towards the first word. And at the end you’ve got the close quote, which will also curve inwards, in the opposite direction. But don’t forget about the rest of the punctuation rules. Any punctuation marks should fall inside the closing quote. That includes commas, question and exclamation marks and periods.
A quote might be crucial to your argument, but it will be thrown out if it isn’t properly cited. Remember to introduce your quote in the paragraph with a description of where it comes from. For example, you could say that “Mr. Smith” explained the situation in a piece in The New Yorker, or something to that extent. If you can smoothly integrate the citation this way the reader will take in the information without pausing.
You can also cite the quote by including footnotes or a bibliography at the end of your essay. If you are using footnotes, you would follow the quotation with a number, and then use that number again in the footnote to designate that quote’s placement. If you include a bibliography you will list all of the publishing information there, and then follow the quote with the author’s name and the page number where the quote can be found inside of parentheses.
Finally, don’t forget about the variation when you are dealing with an indented quote. Not every quotation you use will be a quick phrase. In longer analytical essays you may need to utilize full paragraphs or long poems quoted from a source. If your quotation is longer than five lines it cannot sit within the standard paragraph body. Instead, set it within its own paragraph, indented an inch at both the left and right margins. These hopefully wise quotations can also be printed in italicized text to further differentiate themselves as quotes. You’ll still use the opening and closing quotation and punctuation marks, just as with shorter quotes.