Why is it important to avoid dropped quotations?

A dropped quotation—a quote that appears in a paper without introduction—can disrupt the flow of thought, create an abrupt change in voice, and/or leave the reader wondering why the quote is included.

Instead of creating an unwelcome disruption in their paper’s cohesiveness with a dropped quotation, thoughtful writers should employ strategies for smoothly integrating source material into their own work.

Why is it important to conclude a paragraph with the writer’s voice rather than a quote or paraphrase?

Although quotations or paraphrased material from reliable sources are often used to add credibility and to support a writer’s ideas, the focus of the paper should remain on the writer’s voice and his or her own agency as a writer.

Credible evidence should be provided to support the points a writer makes, but source material should not overshadow the writer’s voice. Each paragraph’s conversation should be directed by and concluded with the writer’s own voice, not by another author’s words.

How can a paragraph be effectively concluded with the writer’s voice?

Conclude with at least one sentence after the quote or paraphrase that wraps up the paragraph’s main point and connects the voices of the writer and the quoted or paraphrased source:

  • Look for key words in the quote or paraphrase that can be reiterated effectively in the concluding sentence(s).
  • Look for connections and reasonable conclusions that can be made as a result of weaving the writer’s and quoted or paraphrased material’s ideas together.
  • Look for ways to link the quote or paraphrase to the purpose of the paragraph and/or the thesis of the paper.
  • Look for nuances in the quote or paraphrase that could be used to help create a transition to the next paragraph.

Let’s look at an example:

Main point of the paragraph: Plastics and plastic waste are found nearly everywhere in America, but only a small percentage are recycled.

Quotation: “Only 8% of the total plastic waste generated in 2010 was recovered for recycling” (“Plastics”). [1]

Example of a student writer’s paragraph:

          Consumer goods made of recyclable plastic are utilized in a variety of ways by most Americans on a daily basis. Plastics are frequently encountered in marketplaces, restaurants, workplaces, schools, and in homes; these plastics may take the form of shopping bags, plastic packaging, food containers, or beverage bottles, among countless others. Since many of these recyclable plastics are disposable, consumers must decide whether to simply throw them away or place them in a collection container that will be taken to a recycling facility. Of these disposable plastics, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that “[o]nly 8% of the total plastic waste generated in 2010 was recovered for recycling” (“Plastics”).

Note: Here, the reader is left with a quote generated by the EPA. Though this statistic from a reliable source supports the writer’s point, the quotation creates an abrupt end to the paragraph and leaves the source’s voice speaking.

Suggested ending sentences:

This statistic suggests that American consumers did not recycle the majority of the plastic waste generated in 2010. To target this non-recycling population, recycling campaigns aimed at raising the percentage of plastic waste that is recycled in the future could be initiated.

Note: Here, the suggested sentences use key words from the quote (plastic waste and recycled). One sentence draws a simple conclusion based on the information in the quotation, and the other offers a suggested action in response to the statistic.

[1] “Plastics.” EPA. U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, 16 Apr. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.

Why is it important to use only the most vital part of a quote to support your point?

Although the use of direct quotations from reliable sources contributes to the credibility of the writer, the use of lengthy quotes can dilute the writer’s voice as well as remove attention from the writer’s point.

Judicious writers should concern themselves not only with the quality of quoted material, but also with the quantity. Careful selection of the most vital words and phrases from a quotation can contribute to the writer’s ability to support their ideas clearly and concisely.

How can a quote be shortened?

  • Carefully select only quotations whose words are significant, concise, and unusually expressive.
  • Choose only the key words and phrases from the quote that are relevant to a specific point; use ellipsis points where a word, phrase, or sentence is omitted.
  • Try to limit the length of a quotation to no more than two lines.
  • Keep the 10% guideline in mind—quoted material should make up no more than 10% of the paper’s content.
  • Follow your instructor’s directives for quote length—some may impose a limitation on the number of words for each quote.

Let’s look at an example:

Quote that is inappropriately long:

       Parents should be concerned about their child's hand-washing habits—not only under supervision at home, but when the child is being cared for by others. Experts from the Mayo Clinic staff offer their support for this aspect of parental responsibility: (Note: An introductory signal sentence precedes the quotation.)

Hand-washing is especially important for children in child care settings. Young children cared for in groups outside the home are at greater risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, which can easily spread to family members and other contacts. Be sure your child care provider promotes frequent hand-washing or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Ask whether the children are required to wash their hands several times a day — not just before meals. (“Hand-washing: Do’s and Don’ts” 2) [1]

Note: This 71-word quotation is not only too long for an average-length essay, but it contains additional details that are not essential to support the writer’s point.

Shortened version of the same quotation:

       Parents should be concerned about their child’s hand-washing habits—not only under supervision at home, but when the child is being cared for by others. Experts from the Mayo Clinic staff advise that “[h]and-washing is especially important for children in child care settings. . . . Be sure your child care provider promotes frequent hand-washing” (“Hand-washing: Do’s and Don’ts” 2).

Note: Here the quotation has been shortened to less than two lines (21 words) and is integrated into the paragraph with a signal phrase. The sentences selected from the longer quotation contain key words and phrases that relate directly to the writer’s point.

For more information on shortening quotations, see also:

[1] “Hand-washing: Do’s and Don’ts.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 15 Oct. 2011. Web. 25 April 2012.