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quotations: insertions and alterations

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.