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Introducing Quotations

In addition to integrating your sources into your paragraphs well, you must always introduce a quotation with some of your own words in the same sentence. Quotations cannot be on their own with no introductory phrases of your own words.

The examples below are cited in MLA style, but similar rules for quoting apply in all styles

Quotations must be introduced

When quotation integration is not done properly, an instructor might refer to the error as a "floating quotation," a quotation that lacks an introduction, a "stand-alone quotation," or a "dropped quotation." This excerpt from a paragraph shows a quotation that has not been introduced:

The common illnesses and complaints of the day show that many other women focused that unhappiness inward, to the point of making themselves ill, or appear ill. "Women during this time were deemed to be highly susceptible to becoming mentally ill as they did not have the mental capacity of men, and this risk grew greatly if the woman attempted to better herself through education or too many activities" (Frick). Disorders such as dyspepsia, brain fever, and "the vapors" were applied mostly to women, or, in some cases, exclusively to women.

Notice how the quotation begins and ends as completely its own sentence with no words from the paragraph's author to integrate it smoothly. Without an introduction, the quotation does not fit smoothly into the rest of the language. The fact that the quotation is cited is not enough; the quotation must be introduced. When this is done properly, it is sometimes referred to as "tagging" a quotation or "framing" a quotation. The italicized portion of the same paragraph shows the quotation introduction below.

The common illnesses and complaints of the day show that many other women focused that unhappiness inward, to the point of making themselves ill, or appear ill. According to one historian, "Women during this time were deemed to be highly susceptible to becoming mentally ill as they did not have the mental capacity of men, and this risk grew greatly if the woman attempted to better herself through education or too many activities" (Frick). Disorders such as dyspepsia, brain fever, and "the vapors" were applied mostly to women, or, in some cases, exclusively to women.

Goals for introducing a quotation:

  • If you are quoting dialogue from a primary source, make sure the speaker is clear. For example, it is not clear to write

Hemingway writes, "Couldn't we live together, Brett? Couldn't we just live together?" (62).

The speaker of that quotation is Jake Barnes, so it would be clearer to the reader to write

Jake asks, "Couldn't we live together, Brett? Couldn't we just live together?" (Hemingway 62).

  • Make the sentence sound smooth and natural. The quotation should not interrupt the sentence or cause awkwardness. This example, on the other hand, integrates the quotation awkwardly:

The narrator describes Jake's injury as "a rotten way to be wounded and flying on a joke front like the Italian" (Hemingway 38).

The first portion of the quote, before the word "and," integrates smoothly, but the rest does not.

 

Methods for Introducing a Quotation

These are the three basic methods for introducing quotations, although each can be modified and varied infinitely.

Method One

Use an introductory phrase and a comma to introduce a quotation.

Brett says, "He wanted me to grow my hair out. Me, with long hair. I'd look so like hell" (Hemingway 246).

When Jake asks her about living together, Brett replies, "I don't think so. I'd just tromper [cheat on] you with everybody. You couldn't stand it" (Hemingway 62). 

With this method, the quotation is usually a complete sentence; retain the capitalization of the first word.

The best introductory phrases will use verbs, as in "Hemingway writes" or "Brett insists." An introductory phrase without a verb, like "For example," does not always integrate smoothly.

 

Method Two

Use a complete sentence plus a colon to introduce a quotation.

Jake's first description of Brett Ashley shows her to embody the boyish sensuality of the 1920s: "Brett was damn good-looking. She wore a slipover jersey sweater and a tweed skirt, and her hair was brushed back like a boy's" (Hemingway 30).

Brett reveals to Jake that she rejected the bullfighter because she could predict his controlling tendencies: "He really wanted to marry me. So I couldn't go away from him, he said. He wanted to make it sure I could never go away from him" (Hemingway 246).

With this method, the quotation is usually a complete sentence; retain the capitalization of the first word.

 

Method Three

Make a short part of the quotation a part of your own sentence.

Jake picks up a prostitute because he has a "vague sentimental idea that it would be nice to eat with some one," but the encounter is depressing and disappointing (Hemingway 24).

Although she is often asking Jake for money, Lady Brett Ashley has a title and is "of very good family"  (Hemingway 59).

When you integrate a short part of a quotation into your own sentence, punctuate as you would any other sentence. There is no special punctuation required. Sometimes, the word "that" will help the sentence sound smoother.

Jake notes that "Brett was damn good-looking" (Hemingway 30).

 

Summary:

Method One: Introductory Phrase + Comma

Method Two: Complete Sentence + Colon

Method Three: Make a short part of the quotation a part of your own sentence.