Why to Quote

In the following passage, the text in bold uses language reminiscent of a passage in the New Testament to discuss the Bohemian movement in nineteenth-century America:

Example of a quote with vivid language or significant phrasing:

"They were real men and they made the world a real place, a place without affectation, without pretence, without show, without need of applause, and without undue cringing to mere conventional forms. These were the characteristics of the Bohemians, and Bohemia was wherever two or three of them were gathered together. Bohemia was the atmosphere they carried with them, and whether upon the streets or in Pfaff's cellar they were at home" (Hemstreet 213).

Hemstreet, Charles. Literary New York: Its Landmarks and Associations. New York and London: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1903.

This might be a good quote to use to support the argument that adherence to a Bohemian philosophy mirrored religious devotion, or to emphasize how Bohemianism has a portable, loose, or unstructured creed.

Writers may also want to select quotes strategically to make a point about the quality of another person's prose. An example of this occurs in the following passage in which a literary critic selects a quote from Lady Audley's Secret (in bold) to support his argument that the author's prose is often sensational and silly:

Example of how a critic uses a quote from a novel to argue a point:

"Robert Audley 'calmly returned to rest, serenely indifferent to the thunder, which seemed to shake him in his bed, and the lightning playing fitfully round the razors in his open dressing-case.' The latter clause merits special notice. We have heard of many curious freaks committed by lighting, but that it should play round razors without injuring, or even exciting a spectator, is a phenomenon of which we never heard before, and shall never read of again except in a 'sensation' novel" (185).

[Rae, W. Fraser]. "Sensation Novelists: Miss Braddon." in North British Review. XLIII, 1865. 180-204.

One could also use the same quote, however, to argue that Robert Audley has nerves of steel and is unmoved by danger. To support this argument, choose other examples and quotes from the novel in which Audley displays courage.

Tip and Tricks:

  • Avoid quoting long passages of text just to make the paper longer-- this doesn't fool anyone, and it may weaken the paper.
  • Try only to use quotes that support your ideas, develop your arguments, or offer constructive counter-arguments; avoid the impulse to hit a quote quota (unless you have a quota to fulfill-- in which case, see the first item).
  • Quotes (seldom) fall from the sky and land *SPLAT!* in a paper. Connect the quote to the topic you're developing in the paragraph; avoid ending paragraphs with dangling quotes. See the How to Quote, or "Love at First Cite" section for examples of how to "spin" quotes.

Other Resources: