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Essay Quotations - Using Quotes in Your Essay

When writing a high school or college essay, it's important to find strong and relevant quotations that will make your paper stand out. But many students often have trouble integrating their quotes into their essay itself. Here we'll provide examples of standard quoting and an innovative alternative technique.

Using Quotes - Standard Techniques
There are several ways to insert quotes into an essay. The standard way of quoting involves introducing your speaker or reference:

In The Odyssey, Telemachus understands that hosting a guest is a great honor. He says, "I'd rather die, yes, better that by far than have to look on at your outrage day by day: guests treated to blows . . ." (255).

When using quotes this way, always introduce them with a transition phrase like, "He says," or "Mr. Smith adds," because then the reader is clear who or what is speaking. When the quote is just inserted into the paragraph, it can seem awkward and confuse the reader.

Using Quote Weaving - An Advanced Option
There is a more advanced form of quoting, often referred to as "weaving". This form of quoting is superior to the standard form because you can weave commentary into your quote. It involves shorter quote "fragments" connected with your opinion.

You can create woven sentences using this template:

Starting commentary → supporting quotes → ending commentary

For instance, using quote weaving, the above quote from Homer's Odyssey can be transformed like this:

To host a guest is a great honor, so much that Telemachus tells the suitors that he would "rather die" than see "guests treated to blows" (Homer 20: 353, 355), a sign of how sacred the guest is to his host.

Using this style also demonstrates to the reader that you have a good understanding of the text.

In practice, weaving can be difficult at first, but your papers will be better in the long run if you try this technique. Always remember to cite your quote fragments correctly and be careful not to take quotes out of context.

Block Quotes Example
Sometimes you will find a paragraph that works well with your essay and want to use the whole thing. To do this, you will use a technique called block quoting. Per MLA style, when a quote is over 4 lines long, you indent the whole thing one space. An example using a report from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC):

The SEC recently charged a corporation for operating a fraudulent business. The SEC's press release said:

           According to the SEC's complaint, CRE and Ossie fraudulently obtained at least $25 million from investors during 2008 by representing that it would use their money to engage in a currency trading program. Most investors were advised that they would receive guaranteed returns of 10 percent every 30 days, although a few investors were promised as much as 20 percent. (SEC.gov)

Depending on what your teacher says, you may have to double space the quote instead of single space. Regardless, always be sure to justify both sides of the quote and to cite your source.

Preparing Your Quotes: A Handy Technique
Try gathering all of your quotes into a single text document so you can easily reference and copy/past them into your essay. This can save you time and energy.

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