Last week I wrote about how to treat quotations with respect to the content of your lit review. This post is more about basic mechanical aspects.
Quotations that aren’t being presented as block quotes (we’ll get to those in a second) are opened with quotation marks. That much is pretty intuitive, but the hard part is at the end. It can be tricky to remember the correct order for the various elements that fall at the close of a quotation that you’re citing parenthetically, but the order is as follows:
“Here is an example” (Popielinski 2015, 1).
That particular parenthetical reference is in Chicago style. APA would use “(Popielinski, 2015, p. 1),” and MLA would use “(Popielinski 1).”
In-text versus block quotes
Most styles that govern your writing will have a rule or guideline as to how long a quotation needs to be before it gets set off as a block quote rather than appearing in the text with quotation marks around it, what’s called a “run-in” quote. For APA, it’s forty words. With Chicago, it’s five lines, and with MLA, it’s four. In all three, the punctuation differs a little from how it appears as a run-in quote.
Punctuating block quotes
In all three of these styles—APA, MLA, and Chicago—the same punctuation rules apply to block quotes. There are no quotation marks before or after the quoted material, and the parenthetical citation appears after the quote’s end punctation (period/full stop or otherwise).
Pretend this example of a block quote is much longer than it is. Let’s pretend it’s at least forty words or four lines. And also, in an academic paper, it wouldn't be in italics unless you were using an unusual style that called for that. (Popielinski 2015, 1)
Omitting text from quotations
If there are pieces of the text that aren’t relevant to the quote, then you can omit them by replacing them with ellipsis points: . . . Even though Microsoft Word has special formatting for them when you put them all together with no spaces in between, all three of our styles of interest (APA, MLA, Chicago) prefer spaces. And none of them use brackets around the dots, though there are other styles that do. There are always three points, though it might sometimes look like four if the first dot is a period at the end of the previous sentence.
Take particular note that in APA or Chicago, this applies only to text in the midst of the quotation, never the very beginning or the very end. MLA, however, allows ellipsis points to trail the quotation off.
Any . . . of these . . . is an acceptable place . . . for an ellipsis break . . . in APA or Chicago style . . . if there is text missing in that spot. . . . But not before “Any” or after . . . this.
Adding or replacing text in quotations
Almost any change you make in a quotation from the original needs to be placed in square brackets to convey to the reader that you changed something or added informative text. The Chicago Manual of Style is very specific about the exceptions to this rule, which include changing the case (upper case or lower case) of the first letter in the quotation or and changing double quotes to single or vice versa, all of which might be necessary for smoothly inserting the quoted text into your paragraph. Heavier changes, though, need to be bracketed.
Finally, a style note on omitting, adding, or replacing text
Usually, the most elegant quote use is that which applies a minimum of changes within the quotation itself. You can sometimes avoid excess ellipsis points or brackets by starting the quotation later, ending it sooner, or dividing it with text of your own in the middle. If you find yourself habitually inserting explanatory bracketed text, see how much of that can be provided in a description before the quote begins.
Nonetheless, every instance is different, and you should judge each one to determine what flows best in each case.
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