Provide context for your reader. Identify (1) who’s speaking the lines (if it’s dialogue that you’re quoting) and (2) what’s happening in the story when those lines are spoken.
Change or adjust words to make them blend grammatically with your writing.
Don’t quote without purpose. Do not start a sentence with a quotation.
***Follow this pattern:
Assertion. Make some argument or sub-argument about the story.
Quotation. Quote, with context, a line or passage that supports
Commentary. Comment on the quotation, directly engaging the
language and explaining how it supports your assertion.
Common Error #1: The Quotation is Alive!
In this error, the writer personifies the quotation, making it do something, like show, describe, exemplify, explain. A quotation is not alive; thus, it cannot do anything.
--“Karen sat at the round table in Marblehead with her new family” describes the setting a little bit-- where they are and at what kind of table they are sitting. --Our goal, of course, is to incorporate the quotation naturally into our own writing. In writing, we would never make a quotation do something like the following: “You are a big jerk” made me cry. DO NOT START THE SENTENCE WITH A QUOTE!!! Therefore, to fix the above quotation from “The Carved Table,” fit the description of Karen into your own writing by BLENDING the quotations:
in Marblehead,” dining with “her new family.”
Common Error #2: Referring to the Author When Discussing the Story
--Our goal, again, is to incorporate quotations naturally into our own writing. Writing over and over again that “the author writes” or “the author says” ruins that naturalness and makes our essays sound artificial.
--The mood of the party is revealed when the author states, “Karen envied
that sharing. She envied her thoroughbred sister-in-law….”
(Hmmm…not sure what is going on with the context of the story. What mood? What does the author mean?)
--The party is marred by Karen’s mix of animosity for and jealousy of her new family. She envies her “thoroughbred sister-in-law” and “that sharing” between her and her mother-in-law.
(Much better. The reason for the “mood” becomes clear.)
Common Error #3: Including Unclear References
If I walk up to you and say, “Man, I hate that guy!” What is the problem? If I provide you with no context, you have no idea who “that guy” is. You need me to explain something about the situation so you can figure out whom I am discussing. The same thing happens when you take a quotation from a story. You have to remember that you’re taking it out of context; therefore, any unclear references in the quotation must be explained. You can use [BRACKETS] to change wording so it fits naturally into your own sentence.
Look at this example:
--Karen is uncomfortable as she sits at the table in Marblehead. She sits “listening to their conversation,” wondering whether she’ll be able to fit in.
Who are the “they” whose conversation we’re discussing? Make it clear:
--Karen is uncomfortable as she sits at the table in Marblehead. She sits “listening to [her new family’s] conversation,” wondering whether she’ll be able to fit in.
--Karen is uncomfortable as she sits at the table in Marblehead with her new family. She sits “listening to their conversation,” wondering whether she’ll be able to fit in.
*Most of the quotations come from ideas taken from the College Board AP Listserv.