To quote or not to quote

Monday, June 4, 2018
by Magdalena Bentia

Adding quotations to your writing is a great way to incorporate ideas from others to the conversation. The following post discusses the common problem of not knowing when to use quotations.

FYI: quote is a verb and quotation is a noun. Although, the word quote is now commonly used as a noun since language evolves and grows.

Think of a quotation as someone else adding their input on a topic within your writing. Like a verbal conversation, this person can add their input for a variety of reasons. Some people may contradict your ideas while others will agree with them.


A contradiction from a source can act as a rebuttal. By responding to the author's conflicting ideas, this response can strengthen your own argument. Use a quotation from the author to show how someone may disagree with your ideas. This shows a deeper analysis as you have considered how someone will respond.  


Find someone who agrees with your argument and add a quotation that supports it. This quotation should support your beliefs and provide a look into how others in society might have the same viewpoints. Be sure to explain this quotation and any new information it might bring to your discussion.


Introduce a quotation by an author that shows how your idea holds up to a real life example. Say you are arguing that chocolate ice cream is the best flavour (which is obviously true). In that case, you would need a quotation that discusses how chocolate ice cream sells more than other flavours or how a survey found that most people prefer this flavour. This quotation aims to support your point by acting as evidence.

Remember these tips when using a quotation within your writing

  1. Use a direct quotation when it is not effective to paraphrase

Rephrasing someone’s ideas into your own words is a skill every writer should have. If you can paraphrase while still including the main idea that the author discusses, then do so because too many quotations can be confusing for the reader. If the quotation includes important terminology that is required for analysis within the paper, then insert the direct quotation. Either way, remember that both paraphrasing and quoting require a citation.

  1. A good quotation is only as good as its explanation

No matter how good a quotation is, without an explanation, it is standing on its own. A strong quotation should focus on what your essay will be analyzing, but a good explanation will make the connection between your idea and someone else’s words.

  1. Don’t let the quotations overpower your ideas

Although inserting quotations is a great way to make your writing relevant in real world conversations, they should not be the main source of ideas. A paragraph that mostly contains quotations is typically confusing and hard to follow. Try to be picky when choosing a quotation as this will ensure that it is only adding important information to your writing. You can even do this by asking yourself if removing the quotation will make the argument weaker.