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Student Blog: How to Quote Good

Good quoting mechanics make the difference between sounding like you speak English, and sounding like you hurt it.

Kids who can't read good don't write good neither

So we've hammered out the topic sentence, and the bit which follows – where you expand on your big profound idea in the topic sentence. Now we need to give the evidence.


There are some things that you just shouldn’t do when you quote:


1. Position the quote and sentence suggestively next to each other and hope someone notices the astonishing connection:


Abigail has had a hard life, losing her parents to the Indians, ‘I saw Indians smash my dear parents' heads on the pillow next to mine’.


Err…no. Imagine someone said this: My teacher is a loser without parallel and I’m unsure about their musical choices, ‘I like Coldplay and other mortgage rock bands’. It’s fairly obviously wrong.


2. Sticky-tape the quote into the sentence. Try reading this aloud:


Abigail has had a hard life, losing her parents to the Indians, as in ‘I saw Indians smash my dear parents' heads on the pillow next to mine’.


‘as in’ isn’t a grammatically correct way to integrate the quote into the existing mechanics of the sentence. Neither is ‘as in the quote’ or ‘as when she quotes’. This is a correct way to do it:


Abigail has had a hard life, losing her parents to the Indians, which she describes by saying ‘I saw Indians smash my dear parents' heads on the pillow next to mine’.


You can even move seamlessly into the quote without using an intermediate verb of speech like ‘saying’, like this:


Abigail has had a hard life, and ‘saw Indians smash my dear parents' heads on the pillow next to mine’.


Obviously we had to remove the ‘I’ because it wouldn’t make sense.


What’s the point? Would you expect to get a driver’s licence if you banged a car while reverse parking? Same deal with this – if you can’t manage the actual writing in English bit, all your knowledge of weird Greek techniques is for nothing.


An example


We’ve been working through a paragraph answering this question:


Through the telling and receiving of stories, we become more aware of ourselves and our shared human experiences.


Explore this statement with close reference to your prescribed text.


Winston’s attempts to tell the story of his life in the forbidden journal shows a self-awareness that is unusual in an Outer Party member, but more dangerous is his desire to increase this through storytelling, and to share it with other self-aware people. As the long extract from Goldstein’s book will reveal, the Party can command absolute obedience only because the rank-and-file members are not aware of themselves as individuals with agency, choices, and potential to act in any other way. By filling Party members’ days with closely-directed communal activities like the Two Minutes Hate and the Anti-Sex League and morning physical jerks, they never achieve complete individuation and thus never object. This much is evident when he opens the diary. He writes the date and cannot go further because ‘A sense of complete helplessness had descended upon him.’


Or we could have written


Or we could have said: Winston’s inability to think for himself – the basis of self-awareness – is clearly hamstrung the moment he attempts to ‘transfer to paper the interminable restless monologue that had been running inside his head, literally for years. At this moment, however, even the monologue had dried up.


You try


If you’ve been building a paragraph according to the model of the last few weeks, add a sentence or two of evidence from the text, and make sure it’s integrated correctly into the grammar of the sentence.


Have a look at the shop for some sample essays that demonstrate how to quote beautifully https://www.divingbelleducation.com/shop/english

Remember - even shitty English can be beautiful. Just not in exam essays.

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