Using Quotes in Writing: A How-To Guide

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When writing your essay, your words should make up the majority of the paper. Everyone knows that using too many words from other people can cross the line into plagiarism. But that doesn’t mean that you should never include other people’s words in your own paper.

Using quotations is an essential way to develop your essay and create a memorable paper that will demonstrate not just your own understanding of the subject but also your ability to work with and integrate perspectives from others to support and defend your own.

However, not everyone knows when and how to use quotations in an essay. In this article, we’ll take a look at a few of the rules for how and when to deploy quotations from others when creating a paper of your own.

Let’s begin with a few of the basics.

Theory: Quotations in Writing and How to Use Them

First, what is a quotation? As you might imagine, a quotation is the use of exact words from a source. If you change any of the words, it is no longer a quotation. But it can be plagiarism. So, you must always use the exact words of a source as they are written in order to stay on the right side of academic honesty.

There are a couple of exceptions. You may leave words out, but only if you mark them with ellipses in brackets, like this […].

You may capitalize the first word of a quotation if it isn’t already when using it to start a sentence, and you may italicize words for emphasis, but only if you use a phrase like “emphasis added” in parentheses to indicate that you did so. Otherwise, everything stays as written.

You must also be sure that you are clearly differentiating between your words and those you are quoting. For the most part, you do so with “quotation marks,” which surround the words you are borrowing. However, there are special rules about quotations that are longer than 40 words.

When you have quotes that are extra-long, these are no longer placed in quotation marks. Instead, they are placed in their own paragraph, whose entire left edge (not just the first line) is indented one-half inch or one tab. This is called a “blockquote” and is used primarily for lengthy quotations, though occasionally it can be used for shorter quotations when special emphasis is needed.

More important than merely the mechanics of quotations is the question of what and when to quote. Let’s start with the question of how much you should be quoting. Generally, you should strive to have between 10 and 15% of your paper quotations. So, in a 1,000-word essay, quotes should make up no more than 100 to 150 words. This way, you can be sure that your paper is primarily your own words and won’t stray into problematic territory where you have too much borrowed information.

Since you will need to limit your use of quotations, it’s worth considering what you should be quoting in order to make the most of your limited quotation space.

Practice: How to Find the Best On-Point Quotations

It can be tempting to simply grab a random sentence from a source and use it mostly to show that you read the material. However, to deploy quotations effectively, you should be looking for sentences that meet one of three criteria:

  1. They should provide a specific opinion or conclusion that offers an expert’s perspective you need to support your analysis.
  2. They should say something using language in a way that can’t be said better by anyone else.
  3. They should be specific wording you need your audience to read and review so that you can comment on or critically analyze it.

If it doesn’t meet one of those three criteria, it is generally better to summarize or paraphrase the material in your own words. Remember, a summary or a paraphrase is still a form of borrowing from a source, so summaries, paraphrases, and quotations must all have citations to document where the material came from.

That leaves the question of when to use quotes. Generally speaking, you should not place a quotation first in a paragraph. In academic writing, the preferred style is to begin your paragraph with a topic sentence, offer supporting evidence, and then introduce the quotation, present the quotation, and end by explaining what the quotation means and how it relates to your thesis. This way the quotation is integrated into the paper and is essential to the argument, not merely decorative.

Extras: How to Deal with Urgent Papers and Their Formatting

If you need help writing a paper and getting all of the quotes in it right, then you should consider whether it would benefit you to pay someone to do essays for you. When you use an expert writer from an online writing service like, you can free yourself from some of the burdens of your essays.

Expert writers can create a paper that will show you not just the best approach to your topic but also the right way to use quotations to fully develop your essay and support your good ideas with effective research and powerful inspirational quotes.

It is also important that you learn how to diversify assignments and delegate tasks, as those are the skills that will definitely come in handy later in your professional life. When the deadline is scarily close, you can play possum and pretend that nothing is happening, and later face bad consequences, or you can order a paper or two from a professional writing service, and focus on finishing other tasks.

However, whether you use a writing service or work through your project on your own, choosing the right quotations is one of the most important ways you can explore your topic and fully develop your essay to present a broad view of your material and demonstrate your command of relevant material.


Hi. I'm Mursaleen Siddique, The guy behind I'd rather call myself a struggling Blogger. I love Blogging with WordPress, Covering Tech, General Topics, Graphic & Web Design Inspiration., Feel free to get in touch via mentioned social media platform or E-mail me at hello[at]
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