Using Sentences

Usually, when you find it necessary to quote, you’ll be using a full sentence or two from a text as a quotation. In addition to making sure the quote is necessary and meaningful, be sure to make the quote works with your own writing. Your quote must work well in terms of the flow of your writing and in terms of the content. You don’t want to simply drop in a quote without connecting it to the surrounding text. Look, for example, at the following:

Thoreau argues that a market economy penalizes a man who chooses to give precedence to parts of his life other than work. “Actually, the laboring man has no leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market” (21).

The quotation, “Actually, the laboring man…” isn’t connected to the previous sentence, and there’s no analysis following the quote to help readers understand its meaning and purpose.

Here are some good content guidelines to follow when using sentences as quotations:

  • Be sure to give your quote some set up and context. You will learn more about doing this in the next lesson on signal phrases.
  • Don’t forget to provide a proper citation for your quote. Find out if you need to follow MLA, APA, or another documentation style’s guidelines.
  • After your quote, you’ll need anywhere from a sentence to several sentences to provide commentary or analysis on the quote. How much you write here will depend upon the situation and the quote, but you always need something following a quote, as you want to control how your reader understands the quote.

And, in addition to those content guidelines, here are some good guidelines when thinking about your sentence structure as you set up your quote:

  • When the introductory text is a complete sentence, connect it to the quotation with a colon.
  • When the introductory text is an introductory phrase (rather than a complete sentence), connect it to the quotation with a comma.
  • When the introductory text works directly with the flow of the sentence that follows, use no punctuation at all.

Grumble... Applaud... Please give us your feedback!