Adding Corrections, Explanations and Other Comments to Direct Quotations

Adding Corrections, Explanations and Other Comments to Direct Quotations
Whenever an academic or scientific author directly quotes material from a source, he or she should ensure that the content of the quotation is accurately represented and will be clearly understood by readers. This is usually unproblematic, but there are instances in which the words quoted need to be emphasised, corrected, qualified or otherwise commented upon in order to achieve the effect desired by the author quoting the passage. When this is the case, it is essential to make the necessary additions in a scholarly fashion that will indicate to readers exactly what the quoting author has added and what the additions mean.
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A common practice is to add emphasis to certain words in a quoted passage through the use of italic font. When you make use of this technique, you should also add a quick comment acknowledging the change of font. Your comment can be added in square brackets within the quotation immediately after the italicised word(s): ‘[italics mine]’ or ‘[italic font my own]’ would work well. If you add italics in more than one place in a quotation, the acknowledgement can be included at the end of the quotation along with the reference, as in ‘(Taylor, 2009, p.98; italics mine).’ The acknowledgement can use whatever wording you find most effective, but the same words should be used in all instances in a document.

When you need to quote a passage that contains errors or perhaps statements that may not be precisely accurate, you will probably want to let the reader know about the problem so that he or she will not be misled by the quotation. In such cases, there are a few different options. The Latin word ‘sic’ meaning ‘thus,’ ‘so’ or ‘in this manner’ can be used in square brackets immediately after the error or oddity to indicate that the information is not quite right. Another option is to add either ‘recte’ (Latin for ‘properly’ or ‘correctly’) or ‘rectius’ (‘more properly’ or ‘more correctly’) in square brackets after the error, in which case you should include the correct information as well. It is also acceptable to use the English equivalents of these Latin terms, but please note that if you do use the traditional Latin words, they should appear in italic font like other foreign terms (though I do not use italics here because they tend not to show up on many web sites). Their English equivalents, on the other hand, and any corrections you add should use the same font as the rest of the passage.

Other necessary additions can be added to quotations in the same way. These might include short glosses, translations or definitions for foreign, unusual or potentially misleading terms. Variants found in other editions or manuscripts of the passage are often added in this way as well. Longer explanations are also acceptable, but do keep in mind that too much added information can reduce the positive effect of the quotation and might better be included in your main discussion. If you wish to express doubt about any part of a quotation, a question mark can be enclosed in square brackets immediately after the uncertain information, and some explanation may be added as well, but remember that an exclamation mark enclosed in square brackets is neither an effective nor a professional way in which to comment on a quotation and should be avoided.

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