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8 Quotations and Quotation Marks

8.01 Introduction

The main use of quotation marks is to set off the exact words of a speaker or written source from the main body of a text. The quotation may consist of one or more complete sentences or paragraphs, parts of a sentence or paragraph or as little as one word. As an alternative to the use of quotation marks in the run-in format (quotations integrated into the text), direct quotations may be indicated by means of indentation and/or reduced leading (space between lines) or font size, called the block format. Whichever format is adopted, the quoted matter should normally be faithfully reproduced in every detail: the spelling, punctuation and other characteristics of the original may not be changed without good reason (see 8.10 Insertions, alterations and parentheses for information on insertions in and alterations to quoted matter).

Bear in mind, too, that the excessive use of quotations can mar the appearance of a page and make it difficult for the reader to follow the ideas being presented; it is often better to paraphrase, use indirect speech or give a summary of the ideas concerned in your own words—in each instance accompanied by a footnote providing the source of information. Quotations are justified if the intention is to demonstrate a particular characteristic, style or wording, or to compare quotations; if the material is striking, memorable or well known; or if the quotation itself is an example or proof of what is being discussed, as in the case of legal evidence.

In this chapter, we shall follow the predominant Canadian practice of placing the period or comma within closing quotation marks and using double rather than single quotation marks (except for quotations within quotations, as illustrated in 8.08 Quotations within quotations).

8.02 Run-in format

Use the run-in format when the quoted matter is not more than fifty words or five lines long (longer quotations should be set in block format):

  • The Minister said, "Prospects for growth are not good."

The quotation remains within the body of the paragraph.

Because the run-in format does not require indentation, the writer enjoys some latitude in positioning the clause or phrase that introduces the quotation, also called the annunciatory element.

Note that when a quotation is interrupted by other matter, the quotation marks are repeated before and after each part of the quotation:

  • "In a narrower sense," the Minister added in her report, "governments are becoming increasingly worried about large spending deficits. The chances of still higher deficits, as tax revenues falter and spending pressures mount in a weak economy, are very great."

If you decide to insert the annunciatory clause between two items that were separate sentences in the original or have become separate sentences in the quotation, capitalize the first word of the second sentence, i.e. of the second part of the quotation:

  • "In a narrower sense governments are becoming increasingly worried about large spending deficits," the Minister added in her report. "The chances of still higher deficits, as tax revenues falter and spending pressures mount in a weak economy, are very great."

Note that in the second example the annunciatory clause ends with a period and not a comma.

When a quotation within a sentence is preceded by that, do not capitalize the first word (unless it is a proper noun or adjective):

  • The Minister added in her report that "the chances of still higher deficits, as tax revenues falter and spending pressures mount in a weak economy, are very great."

8.03 Punctuation and grammar in run-in quotations

(a) Place commas and periods within closing quotation marks, whether or not they were included in the original material:

  • Original

    Literature’s world is a concrete human world of immediate experience. The poet uses images and objects and sensations much more than he uses abstract ideas; the novelist is concerned with telling stories, not with working out arguments.

  • Run-in quotation

    "Literature’s world is a concrete human world of immediate experience," according to Northrop Frye. "The poet uses images and objects and sensations much more than he uses abstract ideas; the novelist is concerned with telling stories, not with working out arguments."

(b) However, when a very high degree of accuracy is required (as in a legal context), it may be desirable to place any punctuation not part of the original document outside the quotation marks:

  • This part of section 2 reads as follows: "real and personal property of every description and deeds and instruments relating to or evidencing the title or right to property".

(c) Place a closing dash, question mark or exclamation mark inside the closing quotation marks if it applies to the quoted material and outside if it applies to the entire sentence:

  • If I hear one more word about "political correctness"—
    Stop telling me to "relax"!
    All she kept saying during the trip was "Are we there yet?"

(d) Note that when a statement or question ends with a quotation that is itself a question or exclamation, no period, exclamation mark or question mark is required after the closing quotation marks:

  • Isn’t it time we stopped asking "How much does it cost?"

(e) A closing semicolon or colon should normally be dropped and replaced with a period, a comma or ellipsis points.

(f) When introducing a quotation with the word that, do not use a comma or a colon. Quotations that follow annunciatory clauses ending in that also require grammatical changes—from first-person to third-person pronouns, possessive adjectives and verbs. Neither the third-person pronoun nor that is ever enclosed in quotation marks or square brackets:

  • Original

    I want to consider one sort of semantic change, the kind of generalization that has affected literally and hundreds of other words. It has been occurring for a long time, often draining meaning until no echo of the word’s roots remains, and I suspect that it is occurring more rapidly in this age of electronic communication. I want to consider it from a particular point of view—as a usage problem, but also as an aspect of what Edward Sapir, more than seventy years ago, described as "drift."
    —Robert Gorrell, "Language Change, Usage and Drift," English Today

  • Restructured version

    Gorrell discusses one sort of semantic change, the kind of generalization that has affected literally and hundreds of other words. This semantic change has been occurring for a long time, he believes, and he suspects that "it is occurring more rapidly in this age of electronic communication." In this work, he "[considers] it from a particular point of view—as a usage problem, but also as an aspect of . . . ‘drift.’"

Note that if several changes of this kind need to be made within the same quotation, the material should be presented entirely in indirect speech (see 8.04 Indirect (reported) speech). For information on how to use ellipsis points to indicate omissions from quoted passages, see 8.09 Omissions.

(g) In-text notes, that is, author and page number references following a run-in quotation and enclosed in parentheses, should be placed between the closing quotation marks and the required final punctuation:

  • Recently researchers have examined the sociological aspects of tourism and people’s travel habits in the past century: "Scholars have attempted to deconstruct tourism by asking why sites and practices become designated as culturally desirable to ‘do,’ (such as Niagara Falls, the Canadian Rockies, Peggy’s Cove or the West Edmonton Mall), and others (there are plenty of waterfalls, mountains, fishing villages and shopping malls in the world) do not" (Dubinsky 1986).

For further information on in-text notes, see 9.25 In-text notes.

(h) When quoting poetry in running text, use a slash (/) to indicate the end of a line:

  • "Language, the fist/proclaims by squeezing/is for the weak only," says Margaret Atwood in Power Politics.

For further information on the use of a comma or colon before opening quotation marks, see 7.18 Quotations, etc. and 7.26 Annunciatory function.

8.04 Indirect (reported) speech

Another way of reproducing someone else’s words without repeating them exactly is through indirect or reported speech. By adding a reporting verb (said, stated, exclaimed, declared, etc.) and shifting tenses as required, you can integrate the original speaker’s statement grammatically into the new sentence. Adverbs and adjectives expressing nearness in place or time (here, this, now, next, etc.) become the corresponding adverbs or adjectives of remoteness (there, that, then, the following, etc.) in indirect speech. Examples are given at the end of this section following the heading Direct speech / Indirect speech.

In indirect speech, the first example in 8.02 Run-in format would be restructured to read as follows:

  • The Minister said that prospects for growth were not good.

The verb in the subordinate clause shifts from the present tense of direct speech (are) to the past tense (were) in keeping with the rules of tense sequence. Likewise, a verb that was in the future tense in direct speech often takes the conditional form in indirect speech. Thus if the Minister’s words had been

  • "There will be no growth for some time."

the indirect form would be

  • The Minister said that there would be no growth for some time.

However, the present and future tenses are retained and demonstratives are not modified if the actions or situations referred to are still current or future at the time of quotation:

  • Direct quotation

    "There will be no growth this year."

  • Indirect speech (statement reported in the same year)

    The Minister said that there will be no growth this year.

  • Indirect speech (statement reported in a subsequent year)

    The Minister said that there would be no growth in that year.

Alternatively, a blend of direct and indirect speech may be preferred when a particular part of the original statement is to be highlighted:

  • The Minister said that prospects for growth were not good and that "governments [were] becoming increasingly worried about large spending deficits."

Because the first subordinate clause verb (were) is in the past tense, the tense of the verb within the quotation must be altered. This time, because direct speech is being retained and the speaker did not actually use the past tense, the editorial change has to be indicated by means of square brackets (see also 8.10 Insertions, alterations and parentheses on altering quotations).

The table below shows the corresponding tense and other changes when direct speech is converted to indirect speech:

Direct speech Indirect speech
Simple present
"I hate this film," she said.
Simple past
She said that she hated that film.
Present progressive
"I’m watching the fireworks," he said.
Past progressive
He said that he was watching the fireworks.
Present perfect
"I’ve found a new job," she said
Past perfect
She said that she had found a new job.
Present perfect progressive
He said, "I’ve been running around all day."
Past perfect progressive
He said that he had been running around all day.
Simple past
"I saw Maria in Saskatoon last Saturday," he said.
Past perfect
He said that he had seen Maria in Saskatoon the previous Saturday.
Future
She said, "I’ll be in Nova Scotia by Friday."
Conditional
She said that she would be in Nova Scotia by Friday.
Future progressive
"I’ll be needing the car on the fifteenth," Paul said.
Conditional progressive
Paul said that he would be needing the car on the fifteenth.
Conditional
"I would really like to go," he said.
Conditional (no tense change)
He said that he would really like to go.

8.05 Paragraphing: run-in format

If you are using the run-in format to quote two or more consecutive paragraphs from the same source, place quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph and at the end of the last:

  • The Minister outlined his vision of the new Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and its role in ocean and marine resource management: "Our mission is to manage Canada’s oceans in close co-operation with other federal departments and stakeholders . . . .
  • "Stewardship of oceans and coastal resources is a responsibility that must be shared by all levels of government, business, unions and other interested parties.
  • "Sustainable development requires decision making that is open, transparent and based on sound environmental management principles. It must apply multidisciplinary approaches and integrate economic, environmental and social considerations."

Similarly, material quoted from a letter should carry quotation marks before the first line (usually the salutation) and after the last line (usually the signature), as well as at the beginning of each new paragraph. However, block quotations would be more appropriate in such cases.

8.06 Block format

A block quotation set off from the text is not enclosed in quotation marks. However, it requires indentation, single spacing, and double spacing above and below the passage to set it off. Smaller font size is an alternative to single spacing or indentation. Use a colon at the end of introductory phrases:

  • In "Keeping Our Words," Burkhard Bilger examines the rapid extinction of most Native American languages and concludes that, although traditional field work might be the only way to save these languages, linguists are running out of time and financial support:

    Endangered languages, like endangered species, might be infinitely valuable, but funding and linguistic expertise are finite. They could resort to triage, ignoring both the healthiest languages and the lost causes to concentrate the money where it will make the most difference. Saving a language, however, is more unpredictable than saving a battlefield casualty. A single committed speaker can resuscitate a language, whereas a million suppressed or indifferent speakers can let their language die in a generation.1

Note that in this case the source is mentioned at the beginning of the passage and further information is given in footnotes or endnotes. Place any in-text reference notes (see 9.25 In-text notes) at the end of the block, immediately after the period.

___________________

  • Back to the note1 Burkhard Bilger, "Keeping Our Words." Sciences – New York, 34, 5 (1966): 18-20.

8.07 Paragraphing: block format

If the block quotation begins with a complete sentence—whether or not this was the first sentence of the paragraph in the source document—the first line may be indented further in order to match the format of subsequent paragraphs in the quotation:

  • The Auditor General’s report brings out a major contradiction in the way finances are being handled:

         There have been major initiatives in public administration in the last fifteen years: the emergence of value-for-money auditing, the creation of the Office of the Comptroller General, Part III of the Estimates, the emphasis on internal audit, the advent of program evaluation, and emphasis on the three E’s of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. Many of these had their origins in the government itself.
         Yet, despite these many initiatives, Canada’s finances are not in any better shape. Changes in process have not solved the fundamental problem of balancing expenditures with revenues. As early as 1976, the Auditor General was "deeply concerned that Parliament, and indeed the government," had lost, or was "close to losing, effective control of the public purse."

8.08 Quotations within quotations

Material that was already a quotation in the source document or speech should be enclosed in single quotation marks when run into text and in double quotation marks within block quotations. The same rules of punctuation apply (see 8.03 Punctuation and grammar in run-in quotations):

  • Run-in

    In his article "The Grand Illusion," Robert Fulford states: "Television news responds to one of our most profound needs: it reduces the chaos of the day to something approaching order. The anthropologist Clifford Geertz has explained that human beings are ‘symbolizing, conceptualizing, meaning-seeking’ animals who wish to ‘make sense out of their experience, to give it form and order.’"

  • Block

    In his article "The Grand Illusion," Robert Fulford writes as follows:

    Television news responds to one of our most profound needs: it reduces the chaos of the day to something approaching order. The anthropologist Clifford Geertz has explained that human beings are "symbolizing, conceptualizing, meaning-seeking" animals who wish to "make sense out of their experience, to give it form and order."

In the rare event that a further quotation within a quotation occurs, enclose it in double quotation marks:

  • He answered, "I was told, ‘Keep the document marked "Secret" in a safe place.’"

8.09 Omissions

Omissions of material from a quoted passage, whether run-in or block, should be indicated by ellipsis points (three spaced dots) positioned on the line and separated by one space from the preceding text or from any punctuation marks that follow it.

Note

There is an alternative format. It requires no spaces before, between or after the ellipsis points (economic…developments).

The use of ellipsis points can vary, depending on whether they indicate an omission in the middle of a sentence, at the beginning or at the end.

(a) In the middle of a sentence

Use other punctuation marks together with ellipsis points only if they are essential for clarity:

  • Original sentence

    Interviews, often disparaged for their judgmental subjectivity,
    have been more successful than alternative selection methods.
    Optimum

  • Quoted sentence with omission

    According to Optimum, "Interviews . . . have been more successful
    than alternative selection methods."

Note that the comma after Interviews has been dropped2 and that the word itself begins with a capital I because the quotation, even with the omission, is still a complete sentence.

___________________

  • Back to the note2 The example illustrates the care that must be taken in presenting partial quotations. The omitted qualifying phrase is non-restrictive, that is, it is not required for the rest of the sentence to be syntactically correct and to make perfect sense on its own. Had the commas not been placed around it in the original, the phrase would have been restrictive: it would have defined a certain type of interview and could not have been dropped without altering the meaning of its antecedent, Interviews, and misrepresenting the facts in the quotation. See also 7.14 Restrictive/non-restrictive.

(b) At the beginning of a sentence

To represent omission of the beginning of a sentence, use three dots followed by a space. If, in a quoted passage, one or more preceding sentences have been left out, use four dots—a period immediately following the preceding word and then three spaced dots:

  • Complete quotation

    The Canadian committee system is much less effective than it could be because of the high rate of substitutions and turnover permitted. Much of the problem with the Canadian committee system is that membership turnover is so high that few committees ever develop the continuity, expertise and mutual trust that make a committee effective. A change of attitudes and habits is required and we suggest a new parliamentary convention that committee membership be stable.
    —Royal Commission on Financial Management and Accountability, Final Report

  • Quotation with omissions

    The Canadian committee system is much less effective than it could be because of the high rate of substitutions and turnover permitted. . . . We suggest a new parliamentary convention that committee membership be stable.

The four dots in this case represent omission of a whole sentence and the beginning of the next. Note that the first letter after the ellipsis is capitalized, even though it does not begin a new sentence in the original. In legal writing, indicate any such change by enclosing the capitalized letter in square brackets.

(c) At the end of a sentence

To represent omission of the last part of a quoted sentence, use four dots, but this time the ellipsis points come first, followed by a period to indicate the end of the sentence:

  • Quotation with omissions

    The Canadian committee system is much less effective than it could be because of the high rate of substitutions and turnover permitted. Much of the problem with the Canadian committee system is that membership turnover is so high that few committees ever develop the continuity, expertise and mutual trust that make a committee effective. A change of attitudes and habits is required . . . .

Ellipsis points can also indicate that a sentence has been interrupted or deliberately left incomplete:

  • M. Fulton: Oh, one minute. Perhaps we could expand a little bit, then, into the forestry job question for B.C. I am sure Mr. Reed is abundantly aware of the . . .
    The Vice-Chairman: The answer will have to be given in writing.
  • The critic said, "I realize the play has its good qualities, but . . ."

(d) If one or more paragraphs have been omitted, use four dots, that is, three spaced dots immediately following the period at the end of the preceding paragraph. If the next paragraph in the quotation begins with a sentence that does not open a paragraph in the original, it should be preceded by three ellipsis points after the usual indentation.

(e) A complete line of dots, equal to the length of a line of poetry, is used to indicate the omission of one or more lines of poetry quoted in block format. The same rules of omission as for prose apply to poetry quoted in run-in format.

In the poem "Bushed," Earle Birney says:

  • But the moon carved unknown totems
    out of the lakeshore
    owls in the beardusky woods derided him
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
    Then he knew though the mountain slept the winds
    were shaping its peak to an arrowhead
    poised.

8.10 Insertions, alterations and parentheses

While every quotation must be scrupulously exact, you may wish to provide the reader with information to clarify items in the quotation. For example, you may feel it advisable to indicate to whom the possessive adjective refers in the following:

  • The official insisted: "We foresee no change in their environmental policy in the near future."

The clarification is made by means of square brackets:

  • The official insisted: "We foresee no change in [United States] environmental policy in the near future."

If you need to indicate an error in the original, such as a misspelling, insert the Latin word sic, italicized and enclosed in brackets, immediately after the word concerned. The addition of [sic] assures the reader of the accuracy of the quotation.

When used in this way, [sic] should not be followed by a period or an exclamation mark. Avoid implicit comments on peculiarities of form or content by means of an exclamation mark or question mark enclosed in parentheses.

If you wish to draw attention to specific parts of a quotation, underline or italicize them. The reader must be informed in a footnote, or in parentheses or brackets immediately following the quotation, by means of a phrase such as Italics mine, Underlining mine or My emphasis, that the emphasis was not in the original.

8.11 Reference to words as such

When referring to a word’s form rather than its meaning, use quotation marks to draw the reader’s attention. Usually these words are preceded by terms such as means, marked, specified, as, referred to as, the word, the phrase, entitled and designated. Most writers prefer to place words referred to as such in italics or to underline them rather than to use quotation marks, but consistency in form is the golden rule (see 6.08 Letters and words referred to as such). Words being defined, French terms and foreign words are set in italics, and their definition or translation is placed in quotation marks:

  • The Canadian International Development Agency will be referred to as "the Agency" in this Agreement.
  • The French word dotation means "staffing."
  • Ibid., short for ibidem, meaning "in the same place," is used when references to the same work follow each other without any other intervening reference.

See 6.03 French and foreign words and phrases for information on the use of italics with French or foreign words and phrases.

8.12 Words used in an ironic or special sense; slang and technical terms

(a) Slang and colloquial terms are often peculiar to one region and should be enclosed in quotation marks if they are foreign to the normal vocabulary of the intended readers:

  • The prairie fire was finally "gunnybagged" with the help of local farmers.

Vernacular terms used for effect in administrative documents and reports are treated in the same way.

However, the enclosure of supposed slang or colloquial words in quotation marks is often unnecessary. First, ascertain whether the term is now part of the standard language. If it is, quotation marks are not required. If the term is still a slang term, determine whether using it, rather than a synonym that is standard, is warranted—for rhetorical effect or in order to demonstrate a person’s or group’s speech or style, for example.

(b) Technical terms may be enclosed in quotation marks in non-technical writing:

  • The steel has to be "cold-rolled" before further processing.
  • A research team headed by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, a geneticist at Stanford, completed a global survey of "genetic markers"—variations in proteins and enzymes, for example, that reflect data in a person’s DNA.

This practice is often unnecessary, however, in an era when the educated lay reader has some knowledge of modern science and engineering. Depending on the target readership, technical terms may not need special treatment.

(c) Quotation marks can also enclose words used ironically:

  • Many "experts" were called in for consultation.
  • The party whip called the five renegade MPs in for a "full and frank discussion" of the issue.

Here again, it is often possible to avoid quotation marks by using the preceding text to prepare the reader for the irony.

(d) Words used in a special sense or juxtaposed to terms with which they are not usually associated require quotation marks:

  • The mayor was considered a "stuffed shirt."
  • There is a high-technology spillover which makes human communication with machines easier and is helping to create "intelligent" robots.

8.13 Titles

Quotation marks should enclose the titles of the following when those titles are presented within the body of the text, in footnotes and in bibliographies:

  • articles from newspapers, magazines and periodicals
  • chapters of books
  • short stories published in collections
  • lectures and papers
  • songs and short musical compositions
  • short poems, and poems from collections
  • dissertations and theses
  • unpublished manuscripts
  • radio and television programs

See 6.05 Titles of publications and works of art for titles of works that are italicized.

8.14 French and foreign-language quotations

When including a quotation (as opposed to individual words or phrases) from French or foreign-language documents in your text, do not use italics. The material can be quoted as it stands, without a translation, as long as the Roman alphabet is used, the intended reader has sufficient knowledge of the source language and the context is explicit enough for the quotation to be understood. If you do provide a translation, however, you must enclose it in quotation marks. There are several ways to proceed.

Once the decision to give a translation has been made, it is preferable to quote from a translation that has already been published or gained credibility in some other way (in a thesis, for example) rather than to provide one of your own.

Place the translation of a short quotation or title (itself enclosed in quotation marks or italicized if it is the title of a published work) in square brackets immediately after the original, as in the examples below:

  • Chapter 5, "Die Benennung" ["Terms"], contains an extensive description of rules for the construction of German words and terms.
  • Chapters 6 and 7 contain an elaborate classification of Zeichen [signs].
  • Wüster states: "Ein Schriftsonderzeichen ist jedes Zeichen, das kein Schriftgrundzeichen ist." ["A special writing character is any symbol that is not a main writing character."]
  • The reader should consult Choul’s article "Approches de la traduction technique" ["Approaches to Technical Translation"] for further information.

For a long quotation, give a translation in a footnote on the same page.

Whether you are presenting both the original and the translated quotation, a quotation from a published translation, or your own translation, do not forget to identify the translation in a footnote or immediately before or after the quotation, as illustrated below:

  • Belorgey goes on to say:

    [Translation]
    The considerable growth in governments’ powers has won
    general acceptance because it is seen as the best way of
    providing the services needed by the community.

or

  • Belorgey goes on to say:

    The considerable growth in governments’ powers has won
    general acceptance because it is seen as the best way of
    providing the services needed by the community.
    [Translation]

In all cases, the source of the original must be referred to in a footnote.

An alternative to a source-language or translated quotation is an English paraphrase of the passage concerned, presented within the body of the paragraph and introduced by a phrase or clause such as According to X or X notes that. This approach is appropriate if emphasis is to be placed solely on the ideas contained in the source material, not on any special characteristics that can be communicated only through direct quotation.

Whether the passage finally presented is a paraphrase, a quotation from a published translation, or your own translation, take great care to ensure that the content of the original has been rendered accurately. Even translations from prestigious publishing houses often contain serious translation errors.

8.15 Abuse of quotation marks

Quotation marks should not enclose titles at the beginning of papers or articles, chapter headings, epigraphs, well-known literary expressions, the words yes or no (except in direct speech), proverbs or well-known sayings, matter following so-called, or mathematical or scientific symbols.