Quick Tips for Using Quotes in Essays: Entire Sentences

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Last time I brought up quotes, I talked about how to incorporate short phrases and clauses into your writing. Generally speaking, I would say that using a handful of words here and there is a more elegant solution than quoting an entire sentence wholesale, but sometimes nothing but a copy-and-paste job will do.

If you want to include an entire sentence from the source, rather than just selection, things are a little simpler. (A little.) You no longer have to worry about ellipses, brackets, or grammatical correctness. Your biggest issue is punctuation.

If you are introducing the quote with a complete sentence (“Abrams described the results of a recent quantum physics experiment in his latest paper.”), you should introduce the quote with a colon (:).

Abrams described the results of a recent quantum physics experiment in his latest paper: “Some photon wave-particles which traveled at faster-than-light speeds were of particular interest.” (2016)

If you are introducing the quote with a short introductory phrase (“According to Abrams . . . “), you should introduce the quote with a comma (,). Something like this:

According to Abrams, “Some photon wave-particles which traveled at faster-than-light speeds were of particular interest.” (2016)

Be careful not to mix the two together. Something like this:

Abrams described the results of a recent quantum physics experiment in his latest paper, “Some photon wave-particles which traveled at faster-than-light speeds were of particular interest.” (2016)

or this:

According to Abrams: “Some photon wave-particles which traveled at faster-than-light speeds were of particular interest.” (2016)

would be incorrect.

The trade-off, in my opinion, is the quality of the writing. There are certainly instances where quoting the entire sentence is effective (or even necessary), but there are many instances where it’s much more appropriate to highlight a phrase or a couple of words, or to simply paraphrase or summarize the original source. Regardless, make sure to cite the source! You wouldn’t want to be accused of plagiarism, after all.

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