Cutting/Changing Quotations

How to Cut: (replace cut words with “…”)

Sometimes, juicy words are mixed in with not-so-juicy words.

In the example below, the juicy part of the quotation is in purple. Notice that it has unnecessary information in the middle of the juicy parts.

Women are likely to be (according to a study of peer-reviewed journals from 85 countries) more dissatisfied with their body image than men throughout their lifespan.” (43)

The phrase in parentheses “(according to a study of peer-reviewed journals from 85 countries)” is unnecessary information. Unfortunately, it’s located in the middle of the juicy part and needs to be removed.

To cut, replace the words with an ellipsis that looks like three periods (…). Always use ellipses to show when you have cut words from the beginning, middle, or end of a quotation. The result would look something like the  following:

Studies indicate that “women are likely to bemore dissatisfied with their body image than men throughout their lifespan” (43).

Isn’t that much easier to read?

How to Change: (use brackets [xxx] to show changes)

Sometimes you want to use a quotation, but certain words in the quotation don’t match your words.

Change #1: Avoiding unnecessary capitalization.

Let’s say you wanted to quote the following sentence but don’t want the word “Skeptics” to be capitalized.

Skeptics insisted that the duck-billed platypus was simply a duck bill sewn onto a beaver’s body” (35).

You can simply change the “Skeptics” to “[s]keptics” in order to make your quotation work. Notice that the brackets [xxx] show that a change has been made.

This unusual animal was believed to be a myth at first because “[s]keptics insisted that the duck-billed platypus was simply a duck bill sewn onto a beaver’s body” (35).

Change #2: Clarifying unclear words.

Let’s say you wanted to quote the following sentence. The unclear words are in purple.

“One day, as I was watching at the top of a tree in our yard, I saw one of those people come into the yard of our next neighbour to kidnap the many stout young people in it” (48).

It might be difficult to determine who “those people” is referring to. In cases like this, you can simply change the words “those people” with “those [slave catchers]”. Again, use brackets [xxx] to indicate a change has been made.

Olaudah Equiano recounts how slave captures occurred: “One day, as I was watching at the top of a tree in our yard, I saw one of those [slave catchers] come into the yard of our next neighbour to kidnap the many stout young people in it” (48).

Change #3: Match grammatical phrasing

Let’s say you want to quote the juicy part of following sentence that is in purple.

“While nothing can undo the bullet’s damage, Dr. Scalea says efforts can be made to prevent further damage, known as secondary brain injury” (2).

If you wanted to use this sentence piece in a quotation, you might want to change the grammar. Just as before, you can slightly alter words using brackets. In this case, you could change “nothing can undo” to “nothing [could have undone]” to match the grammar of your sentence.

Many doctors have wondered if modern medicine could have saved Abraham Lincoln’s life. While many modern doctors indicate the Lincoln might have lived, they all seem to agree that “nothing [could have undone] the bullet’s damage” (2) in Lincoln’s brain.

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