Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Essential Skills for Using Quoted Passages in Your Middle or High School Essay (U.S. Format)

Whenever you write a literary analysis essay, it is assumed that you will use quoted material from the literature you are examining. The way you choose what to include, skillfully include it, and properly take the reader to the next idea determines the effectiveness of the quote in your essay as a whole.

First, choose the example from your source that helps demonstrate, clarify, or exemplify the point you are making in the essay. If your topic is Kay Thompson’s representation of a little girl’s typical behavior, you will want to choose effective references to Eloise’s actions. Here is an example:
as Eloise does. Thompson gives her protagonist, who lives with her parents in a New York City hotel, a conversational tone and the attitudes of a normal child of six: “I am a city child. I live at The Plaza. There is a lobby which is enormously large with marble pillars and ladies in it and a revolving door. . . . I am a nuisance in the lobby. Mr. Salomone said so. He is the manager” (8-11), Eloise explains in a chatty manner. By showing us the world through a small girl’s eyes, with her extremely honest observations on it, Thompson helps the reader remember what it is like to be young; she also blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.
When incorporating prose quotations into your paragraph, remember that there are essentially two types, “snippet” quotes of less than a full independent clause, usually included for the vibrant language or phrasing, and “full” quotes that include an entire idea, often more. Full quotes can be introduced with a comma or a colon. As you become a more skilled writer, you will be freer to use quoted material in a few other ways, but for now, you may do any of the following three: snippet; formally introduced quote with a comma; or formally introduced quote with a colon. Here are examples of each:

Snippet: Eloise’s exuberant antics extend through a full day, with the final pages indicating that she is getting ready for bed and that she hopes to “pour a pitcher of water down the mail chute” tomorrow (65).

Note that, when you use snippets, you should punctuate the sentence the same way you would if the snippet were just a regular part of your sentence.
Formal, comma:
reasons for halitosis. In Your Disgusting Head, the authors explain, “Your breath smells bad because you’ve been eating food that smells bad” (10). One co-writer, Dr. Doris Haggis-on-Whey adds, “When you put your nose to certain foods, they might not initially smell bad . . . . But what causes the apple, once in your mouth, to smell not-so-good?”(10). It is in determining the answer to this latter question that the explanation for this social problem becomes clearer. They write, “The fact is that the bad smell comes from you” (10).

Note that when the quoted passage is an independent clause or more in length, it begins each time with a capitalized letter.
Formal, colon:
See first Eloise example above—there, a colon introduces the quotation.

See: Thompson, Kay. Eloise.

Haggis-on-Whey, Dr. Doris and Mr. Your Disgusting Head.