Thursday, July 09, 2009

Grammar: You can quote me

Quotation marks give some people trouble, but they are really not that difficult to use -- or, evidently, to mess up.

When making a direct quote, the quoted text is enclosed in quotations (they always come in pairs) and the first word of each sentence within the quote requires capitalization.

George Bernard Shaw writing on education said, "A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education."

When quoting a fragment of a sentence, the first word is not capitalized.

I couldn't believe what Chili Bob told me so I checked it out for myself in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I found an article with a diagram that showed how the utility company will be able to manage "power on the grid by automatically adjusting smart thermostats and smart appliances via radio signals" or turn off the electricity from company trucks cruising the neighborhoods.

When breaking a quotation, the second half of the sentence is not capitalized and both parts of the quotation are enclosed within quotation marks. (that's a lot of quotation)

"I do not require a Black president to know that I am a person of worth," and that life is worth living. I do not require a Black president," wrote Dr. Anne Wortham in her short article on the results of the 2008 election, " to love the ideal of America.

If a quotation has a spelling or grammar error, transcribe it as written and follow the quotation with SIC in italics between brackets -- [sic] -- directly after the mistake. SIC is from the Latin meaning"thus," "so," or "just as that." In plain old American language, it means "it's their mistake not mine."

During the 2008 election, Jerome Hudson wrote an op-ed article about being a young, black conservative. On "liberal yammering," he wrote. "But I guess I had made the mistake of buying into all that liberal yammering about being “open minded” and supporting “diversity” that I’d deluded myself into believing that a civil, discussion about the herd-like ideological mentality of so many of my contemporaries suffer from was possible. [sic]

Be careful when using quotes in an article or paper and use them sparingly, otherwise it will look like you didn't do the necessary research and are simply regurgitating someone else's hard work and dressing it up with quotes.

Now, indirect quotations give some people trouble. They shouldn't as long as you provide sufficient citations to avoid the inevitable accusation of plagiarism, and no one wants that.

One of the things I learned from reading Oliver Wendell Holmes is that the best way to expand the mind is not through drugs but by being willing to embrace new ideas. You will never see the world in the same myopic way.

When the language is emotionally or intellectually striking, don't dilute it by paraphrasing.

Martin Luther King Jr. believed that the end of slavery was important and of great hope to millions of slaves done horribly wrong.

Take the time to quote it properly and exercise those quotation marks.

Martin Luther King Jr. said of the Emancipation Proclamation, "This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice."

Forget the quotation marks when summarizing key incidents or the details of a large amount of information and use them judiciously (and correctly) when quoting an author who has coined a unique phrase or term that is unique to your point and relevant to what you're writing, and when you're highlighting the dialogue of a conversation. Sometimes it is better to let the words stand on their own rather than putting your own spin on them.

Until next Thursday, keep those grammar goofs to a minimum. When in doubt -- check it out.

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