Quotes are an excellent tool to boost up credibility of your essay and attract the reader’s attention the moment he sets eyes on it; but just like with any other tool, you have to use them properly if you want them to be effective – and here are some ways to do so.
1. No More than 2 Quotations per Essay
As the saying goes, too much of a good thing is good for nothing – and it is certainly true for essay quotes. A couple of cleverly chosen ones will do wonders to spice up your essay, but if you start cramming them into every other sentence it will, a) look as if you have nothing to say on your own, b) return unpleasantly high plagiarism results in automated plagiarism checks. In addition to that, an essay is a fairly small text, and using multiple quotes will quickly deplete your word limit.
2. Cite the Quote and Do It Correctly
If you don’t want to be accused of plagiarism, make sure you properly cite every quote you use – consult your relevant style guide for details.
3. Paraphrase Quotes
Paraphrasing means transferring the meaning of a phrase in your own words. This way you can avoid repeating the original phrase (thus making it less likely to trigger plagiarism checker) and introduce it more naturally into the flow of your own speech. Paraphrasing is quite a useful technique because it allows you to eat your cake and have it: you both cite an author of the quote (showing that you are familiar with his work) and make it a natural part of your writing (showing that you fully understand what it means and can write on your own).
4. Use Correct Punctuation Marks
Punctuation used with quotes may be somewhat tricky, but learn it once, and it won’t be a problem anymore. If a direct quote is preceded by an identifier like “she said”, or “according to New York Times”, you should precede the opening quotation marks with a comma. Also, make sure that the full stop, question or exclamation mark ending the sentence is inside the quotation marks. Like this:
She said, “I don’t know what to think anymore.”
If the quote has a text following it, there should be a comma at the end of quote – again, within the quotation marks:
“I don’t know what to think anymore,” she said.
5. Vary the Words Introducing Quotes
There are many more words in English than “says” or “writes” to introduce quotes. Make sure you bring a bit of variety into your texts by using them. Here are some suggestions:
Argues, points out, reveals, suggests, supposes, demonstrates, states, claims, concludes… Just open a thesaurus.
6. Make Your Quotes Stand out
Sometimes (especially in case of longer quotations) mere quotation marks are not enough to satisfactorily separate quotes from the rest of the text. If you style guide allows it, try using a different font for them.
As you may see, introducing quotations into your essays is not as straightforward as it seems – but we hope that with these tips you will be able to add that little spice to your texts which makes all the difference.
About the Author
Steven Arndt is a passionate writer, educator and a former History teacher. He tends to reconsider the role of modern education in our society and watches with awe the freedom the youth now has.