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English 102 - CRITICAL THINKING AND LITERARY ANALYSIS - Groper

MLA Formatting Questions

1. How do I punctuate a quotation that has another quotation inside of it?

   This often happens when you are quoting from a novel with a narrator or a source that is reporting what other people said.  What you need to remember is that both the original quote (we'll call it the exterior quote) and the quote inside it (the interior quote) need to have proper punctuation around them to show where the quotes begin and end.  Let's look at an example:

   Scrimgeour did not speak for a moment but his expression hardened instantly.  "I would not expect you to understand," he said, and he was not as successful at keeping anger out of his voice as Harry had been.

Start by putting normal double quotation marks ( " " ) around the entire quote.

   "Scrimgeour did not speak for a moment but his expression hardened instantly.  "I would not expect you to understand," he said, and he was not as successful at keeping anger out of his voice as Harry had been."

Then, replace the double quotation marks that were around the interior quote with single quotation marks or           apostrophes ( ' ' ).

   "Scrimgeour did not speak for a moment but his expression hardened instantly.  'I would not expect you to understand,' he said, and he was not as successful at keeping anger out of his voice as Harry had been."

Finally, we add in our in-text citation.  Since the quote ends with a period ( . ) we move that to the outside of the citation:

   "Scrimgeour did not speak for a moment but his expression hardened instantly.  'I would not expect you to understand,' he said, and he was not as successful at keeping anger out of his voice as Harry had been" (Rowling 346).

Sometimes the interior quote is at the beginning or end (or both) of the quote you want to use:

   "What happened to the girl in the cottage?" said Harry at once, as Dumbledore lit extra lamps with a flick of his wand.

In this case "What happened to the girl in the cottage?" is the interior quote.  Start by putting normal double quotation marks  ( " " ) around the entire quote.

    "What happened to the girl in the cottage?" said Harry at once, as Dumbledore lit extra lamps with a flick of his wand."

Then, replace the double quotation marks that were around the interior quote with single quotation marks or apostrophes ( ' ' ).

    "'What happened to the girl in the cottage?' said Harry at once, as Dumbledore lit extra lamps with a flick of his wand."

You'll notice that the beginning of the sentence looks a little weird with the double quotation marks and the single quotation marks right next to each other, but that's okay!  It's just the way we do it. 

    "'What happened to the girl in the cottage?' said Harry at once, as Dumbledore lit extra lamps with a flick of his wand" (Rowling 211).

   Now, just to make sure you really get it, let's add on one more sentence to our quote:

    "What happened to the girl in the cottage?" said Harry at once, as Dumbledore lit extra lamps with a flick of his wand.  "Merope, or whatever her name was?"

Just like we did with the first quote, replace the double quotation marks around the interior quotes with single quotation marks, and put double quotation marks around the entire quote:

   "'What happened to the girl in the cottage?' said Harry at once, as Dumbledore lit extra lamps with a flick of his wand.  'Merope, or whatever her name was?'" (Rowling 211).

Because this quote ended with a question mark ( ? ), we left the punctuation in and then added in a period ( . ) after the citation.


2. What if the author of a source quotes someone else, and I just want to use that quote?

You have a few options here.  Let's look at an example:

While all three companies have received kudos from government officials and advocacy groups for the pledge, those groups have made it clear they want to see further restrictions. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., released a statement the same day that Nickelodeon announced its pledge, saying, "... I look forward to working with Nickelodeon, as well as with other industry participants, on additional initiatives they can make in the coming weeks and months to further address childhood obesity issues." It seems clear that such extreme critics will not be happy until marketers' rights are legislated away completely.

In this paragraph, we see the author (Brady Darvin) quoting a statement written by Edward Markey.  If you only wanted to use what Markey said in his statement, your first option would be to do some research and find the actual statement.  You would then be working with a primary source and could quote him directly like this:

   "I look forward to working with Nickelodeon, as well as with other industry participants, on additional initiatives they can make in the coming weeks and months to further address childhood obesity issues" (Markey).

But, if you don't want to find the primary source, or, for some reason, can't find it, you have the following two options.  You can use a signal phrase to indicate that the quote you're using was found in Darvin's article, but it is a quote from someone else.  For example:

   In his article, Darvin quotes Representative Edward Markey as saying, "I look forward to working with Nickelodeon, as well as with other industry participants, on additional initiatives they can make in the coming weeks and months to further address childhood obesity issues."

Another option would be to give that same information in your in-text citation:

Representative Edward Markey said in a statement, "I look forward to working with Nickelodeon, as well as with other industry participants, on additional initiatives they can make in the coming weeks and months to further address childhood obesity issues" (qtd. in Darvin).

This last option is a little tricky.  You need to make sure that you identify the speaker of the quote in your signal phrase.  The letters "qtd." stand for "quoted" and should be lower case.

*In this example, the article did not have page numbers.  If you did have page numbers, they would obviously be included in the in-text citation.

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