Academic Tips and Tricks

All the help you need for good essay writing

Tips and Tricks 4: Altering Quotes

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Sometimes a quote just won’t be quite the perfect fit, maybe the tense is wrong, it’s too long, lacks appropriate emphasis, or it misses words which are needed to make it make sense out of context.

This is your guide on how to alter quotes correctly without plagiarising.

Adding words / Paraphrasing

This is a passage from one of my essays:
From a Pragmatic perspective, it is important that my recordings were taken under similar circumstances as ‘[Pragmatics] requires a consideration of how speakers organise what they want to say in accordance with who they’re talking to, where, when, and under what circumstances’ (Yule 1996:3).

Yule’s original wording was:
‘what do people mean in a particular context and how the context influences what is said requires a consideration of how speakers organize what they want to say in accordance with who they are talking to, where, when, and under what circumstances’

Here I have paraphrased ‘what do people mean in a particular context and how the context influences what is said’ to ‘pragmatics’. You have to know what you’re talking about before you attempt this kind of paraphrasing! Don’t alter so much you change the meaning.

Changing Tense

My example:
‘laugh invitations [can be] refused by recipients who overlap with talk that pursues topical talk’ (Holt 2010b:1)

The Original:
‘I then analyse excerpts where laugh invitations are refused by recipients who overlap with talk that pursues topical talk.’

Here I have changed the verb from ‘are’ to ‘can be’ in order to use the quote as back-up evidence in my essay.

Adding emphasis

If there are ever italics, bold text, all caps, or underlining in a quote, you must keep this original formatting, and should state after the quote in parentheses (italics original), (bold text original) etc.

However, you can alter the formatting to make a point, as I have done here with the extract I was analysing from To Kill a Mockingbird:

My example:
‘My toes touched trousers, a belt buckle, buttons, something I could not identify, a collar, and a face. A prickly stubble on the face told me it was not Jem’s. I smelled stale whisky’ (50) (my italics)

Here, I wanted to look at nouns, so used italics to highlight them, then stated (my italics) after the quote so that it was clear this emphasis was not original.

Cutting Words Out

My example:
as Glenn states: ‘People are more likely to laugh if others around them are laughing. In many… social environments, laughs beget laughs and laughter invites laughter (Glenn 2003:53)

The original:
‘people are more likely to laugh if others around them are laughing. In many, though not all, social environments, laughs beget laughs, and laughter invites laughter.’

Here I have removed the phrase ‘though not all’ to streamline the quote.

I hope this has been helpful, for any questions at all on quoting, please comment below.

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Author: Liz

Hi, I'm Liz. I like easy crafts, photography, cooking, lifestyle blogs and YouTube videos. I work as a part-time proofreader and am currently studying for a PhD in linguistics.

One thought on “Tips and Tricks 4: Altering Quotes

  1. Pingback: Tips and Tricks 14: Different ways to quote and reference texts « Academic Tips and Tricks

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