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When to use quotations

It is important to make quotations work for the writing. They should not be the focus of the essay and should not overpower the writer’s words and ideas. It is also important to fit quotations properly into the essay and not simply drop them in to make the word count longer.

Quotations should be used rarely within your writing, so you need to decide if the wording of the source is just as important as the meaning. The following explains reasons for why you might quote a specific sentence or portion of writing:


You are unable to paraphrase or summarize the source material without changing the intent of the author.


You may want to use a quote to lend expert authority for your assertion or to provide source material for analysis.


You may find that paraphrasing or summarizing may prove to be difficult or awkward, result in the loss of the original meaning, or be longer than the original material.

Unforgettable or memorable language

You believe that the words of the author are memorable or remarkable because of their effectiveness or historical flavor. Additionally, the author may have used a unique phrase or sentence, and you want to comment on words or phrases themselves.

It is important to also quote language or terminology that are impossible for you to say in your own words because they are too memorable (famous), authoritative (well-known, expert, credible, etc.), or brief (if the words are changed, the paraphrase will be much longer than the original quote).

Therefore, a quotation must:

  • Refer to the source’s author with a pinpoint reference.
  • Be the same wording as the sourced material.
  • Only be given when it is impossible to express in your own words.

Examples of when to quote

Unforgettable or memorable language

“[T]he only thing we have to fear is fear itself...”

Roosevelt, F. D. (1933, March). Inaugural Address, Washington, D.C.

Authoritative language

At two-tenths the speed of light, dust and atoms might not do significant damage even in a voyage of 40 years, but the faster you go, the worse it is—space begins to become abrasive. When you begin to approach the speed of light, hydrogen atoms become cosmic-ray particles, and they will fry the crew . . . So 60,000 kilometers per second may be the practical speed limit for space travel. (Asimov, 1996, p. 220)

Asimov, I. (1996). The relativity of wrong. New York, NY: Kensington Books.

Concise language

“To be, or not to be, that is the question” (3.1.55).

Shakespeare, W. (2003). Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

How to Punctuate Quotations

Quotation marks

Whenever you require a direct quotation, the text you quote will be placed within quotation marks to indicate that this information is not your own. The quote will be followed by an in-text citation that follows the citation style you are required to use.


There are times when you have a good quotation, but it is too long or contains information that is not necessary for you to include within your assignment. When this occurs, you can use an ellipsis, which is three periods that have spaces before and after each one ( . . . ). An ellipsis represents that you are omitting information (such as phrases or full sentences) found within the material you are quoting. An example of an ellipsis is present in the above authoritative language example.

For more rules relevant to ellipsis, review the requirements of the style guide you are using.

For more information on paraphrasing and quoting, download the Quoting tip sheet and the Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing tip sheet.

For more supports on how to summarize, consider looking at the University of Toronto’s Writing Advice.


Indiana University of Pennsylvania. (n.d.). Using ellipses to omit words from a quotation. Kathleen Jones White Writing Centre.