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Blending Quotations Correctly and Naturally

1. 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.

2. Change or adjust words to make them blend grammatically with your


writing.

3. Don’t quote without purpose. Don’t start a sentence with a quotation.

***Follow this pattern:

a. Assertion. Make some argument or sub-argument about the story.


b. Quotation. Quote, with context, a line or passage that supports
that argument.
c. 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:

--The setting is clearly one of wealth, for Karen sits “at the round table
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.
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(There is one big exception to this, of course: if you’re discussing the


author’s purpose or techniques.)

Look at this example:

--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’s 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. OR

--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.