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Joe Moxley, Founder, WritingCommons.org

Joe Moxley


Dear Colleagues and Students,

At Writing Commons, we are happy with the overall success of our project. Since 2011, when we launched at WritingCommons.org, we have hosted 6,315,882 users who have reviewed over 11 million pages. We are thrilled that students and faculty find our site to be helpful. Our ongoing mission is to be the best writing textbook possible. We also happen to be free. While we cannot perhaps claim yet that we are the best possible textbook for technical writing or creative writing courses, we are working on that.

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How should brackets be used to add words to a direct quotation?

When additional words written by an individual other than the original author are inserted into a quotation, the added words must be surrounded by brackets. The inserted material should present an accurate representation of the author’s message in the original text.

Let’s look at an example:

Using an excerpt from Marc Kutner’s book, Astronomy: A Physical Perspective, the bracketed words in the quoted sentence were inserted into the quotation to clarify the meaning of the word they:

Original direct quotation: “Since they carry the continents with them as they move, we refer to this motion as continental drift” (Kutner, 2003, p. 451). [1]

Quoted sentence with added words: “Since they [tectonic plates] carry the continents with them as they move, we refer to this motion as continental drift” (Kutner, 2003, p. 451). [1]

How should brackets be used to indicate an original error in a direct quotation?

To indicate that an incorrect spelling or a grammar error appears in the original work and that you are accurately reproducing the original material, insert the word sic in italics and enclose it in brackets directly after the error [sic].

Let’s look at some examples:

If a participant in a research experiment incorrectly spells a word in a written response, you might indicate the error in your paper as follows:

In response to the question, “How many hours of sleep per night, on average, do you receive?” one participant reported, “Twevle [sic] hours of sleep.”

In the following example, the synonymous words gaining and obtaining are both included (incorrectly) in a single sentence, leading to redundancy:

As Simonsen (2012) argues, “research should also be valid, verifiable, and unbiased, to attain the overarching goal of gaining obtaining [sic] generalisable knowledge” (p. 46). [2]

See also:

[1] Kutner, M. L. (2003). Astronomy: A physical perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

[2] Simonsen, S. (2012). Acceptable risk in biomedical research. New York, NY: Springer.

Cassandra Branham, Editor-in-Chief WritingCommons.org

Cassandra Branham


Dear Colleagues and Students,

Welcome to Writing Commons, an open-education resource for instructors and students of writing across the disciplines. Our mission is to provide a high-quality, cost free resource to support students in the development of writing, research, and critical thinking practices.

This summer, we have been working on a site redesign in an effort to increase the usability of our site for both instructors and students. Our most significant change has been the inclusion of additional categories and subcategories to create a more intuitive hierarchy within the site.

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